Day 408: Folktales of the Native American

Cover for Folktales of the Native AmericanI have read some of the folk tales of the Celtic peoples (mostly Irish and Welsh) and the Norse and Russians as well as the more recent ones of the Grimm brothers. Last year, I reviewed Robert Graves’ book about Greek myths. Except for the really amusing and cynical fairy tales of Charles Perrault, I find them almost uniformly violent–full of murders, rapine, and theft. (Of course, kids love that kind of stuff.)

What strikes me about the Native American tales assembled and retold by Dee Brown is that even though some are about battles, they do not focus on the gruesome, as European tales are prone to do. More of them are about how things were created or how some animals got their markings, or they are comic tales about trickery and deceit. The stories seem to be more similar to the few African ones I have read than to European myths.

The tales are simply told, most of them no more than two or three pages long. I think in general folk tales suffer from not being told aloud. In print they lack the tale teller’s expression and gestures.