kaigou: this is what I do, darling (4 oh em gee)
[personal profile] kaigou
Talking just now with CP on a paper idea of his, and (as we frequently do) we ended up tangenting along until we ended up on a discussion of whether there are/were significant non-named/generic non-human critters in folklore from any of the African countries.

When I was researching for stories of my own, one thing that bothered me to no end was the overwhelming amount of material available on European (especially British and North European) folklore creatures... and the absolute dearth on just about anywhere else other than maybe Japan and Russia (and a smattering from India). Elsewhere, sure, you could find plenty of stories about named characters -- i.e. Anansi, Coyote, Baba Yaga -- where there's an entire body of legends about the character's exploits. But those legends also presuppose that there's only one, even if that one shows up everywhere at any time. What I was looking for was generics or categories, like the Indian naga, or the Korean gumiho, or the Welsh redcap, and having no luck.

A few times, in articles from/about -- I think it was Mozambique, South Africa, and... I want to say one of the western coastal countries, but I don't think it was Cote D'Ivoire proper -- there would be random passing reference. Then the interveiwee (or translating author/ethnographer) would keep going, into some story of another named legend. No, no, back up, I wanted to say, but it was clear that someone -- whether the interviewee, or the interviewer -- didn't consider these incidental unnamed category-creatures to be worth more explanation.

This is entirely my speculation, but it's possible that it's the ethnographer only wanting a 'body' of stories, instead of snippets here and there -- little stories, if you will. And it's also possible that it's the interviewee (as CP suggested) not wanting to seem too backwards, so preferring to tell legend-type stories, where there's a running narrative. Instead of, y'know, talking about the bogeyman.

But I wonder if it's also possible that in telling the little stories, that there's a self-censorship at play because of the self-consciousness of the telling. Like, for instance, choosing not to repeat the stories of Santa Claus, because you stopped being fooled by that story when you were eight -- even if ten minutes after the interviewer leaves, you're reprimanding your own children about the fact that if they don't behave, Santa will leave coals in their stockings.

Besides, it's my firm belief that if there's one universal aspect to parenting, it's that all parents have a bogeyman at their command. And if you don't behave, that bogeyman -- whatever his or her name, age, rank, appearance, or living quarters -- will come get you.

Or maybe it's just that bogeymen are universal.

ETA: If you do know of beastiary [yokaiography, demonography, list-of-nonhumans, etc] books that recount the folklore of 'generic' (unnamed) non-human types, from cultures other than EU/CEE (which I already have in spades), please do tell.

Date: 23 Feb 2011 03:57 am (UTC)
nagasvoice: lj default (Default)
From: [personal profile] nagasvoice
I have the theory that some of the water-based bad guys are stories to keep little children from goofing about in branch-laden streams and dangerous crossings.

Date: 23 Feb 2011 09:24 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] maire
Bestiary books, not really. Tell us if you find them. I'll be most interested.

Are you after any non-human creatures, or just non-existing creatures, though? It's not clear to me whether things like Japanese foxes count for you, or whether the creature has to be non-real, like a unicorn.

If you're OK with actual animals, then, for example, 'Maori Bird Lore' isn't bad on this front (by Murdoch Riley). It's not looking just at the roles of the native birds (New Zealand has native frogs, arthropods, molluscs, lizards, birds, and bats, but no other native land animals) in stories, but also in other types of folk lore, but it definitely gives their roles in stories, and they're frequently not Fantail and Kereru but are rather 'a fantail' and 'a kereru'.

Stuart Gordon: An Encyclopedia of Mythology. This might have some starting places for you, at least.
Here are a bunch of quotes to give you some idea. There's very little detail, unlike the Maori birds book, but it's got some entries that suggest places to start digging for more info. (Stuff in quotes is quotes from this book. The rest is mine.)
'the Masai say the souls of the dead may reincarnate in certain snakes, which must not be killed.' p12
'the angatch of Madagascar' -- a evil spirit p12
'in some trees, like the Kenyan baobab, whole families of spirits are thought to live' p12
'Spirits also inhabit asuman, talismen of beads or horn' p12
'The Hottentots of the southern deserts speak of odd man-eating monsters, the Aiamuxa, who with eyes on their instep have to get down on hands and knees and hold up one foot to see.' p12
'Sacred pythons were fed on milk in a special temple.' by the Bunyoro of Uganda p75
Copper Woman was lonely, 'But one day several magic women came and taught her how to improve her life.' (I have no idea what 'magic women' are, but they seem to be a particular type of spirit in Native American culture of the Pacific Northwest from this story. p104
'The Tupi believed in many spirits and demons: Yurupari, haunting empty houses, burial sites, and the Amazon jungle; Kurupira, a jungle imp who protected game but disliked men; the man-killing Igpupiara; the Apoiaueue who brought rain when it was needed and who like angels told God what happens on earth.' South American, p437.

I did think of some of the Australian stuff I've read, but all the Dreamtime stories have named animals acting as representatives of their species. The other ones are just kinda freaky. I've never quite gotten over the story about the old-woman-demon who steals the girls to make bread.

Date: 24 Feb 2011 01:57 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] maire
I agree with you about paltry. I figured it was better to send examples to give you a rough idea of the level that the book had, rather than saying 'it's got some bits'.

I'd go for getting it from a library rather than buying it, if that's possible. It's a pretty generic encyclopedia, but with a few 'odd' entries (modern urban legends) as well as the usual Greco-Roman/Viking ones.

The Maori book looks to me to be likely to have rather more of the sort of thing you're after.

Maori / Polynesian entities of similar types to unicorns and boggarts that I can think of off-hand are:
* tuna (pronounced 'toona', not 'tyoona' (means eels) -- generally human-intelligent and often marrying women) (Maori and other Polynesian)
* taniwha (Maori only -- although other Polynesian cultures seem to use sharks for similar stories)
* the Patu Paiarehe (red-haired fairies from the Urewera area).

Named or unique entities:
* the woman in the moon (Rona)
* the bird woman from 'Hatupatu and the Bird Woman'

Date: 23 Feb 2011 10:15 am (UTC)
genusshrike: Icon of a woman sitting in a tree, wearing a white dress (tree)
From: [personal profile] genusshrike
Also for New Zealand, the online encyclopedia Te Ara has an overview on taniwha (http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/taniwha/) and both the further sources it lists are good if you can find them (they're more general than a bestiary, as such, but there's lots on supernatural creatures). Though taniwha do generally have names, but there are lots of them.

(Hi! I've been reading you over network & am subscribing :))

Date: 24 Feb 2011 01:59 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] maire
Another type of creature that shows up in Maori stories is hills and mountains. Most have personalities and at least one simply marched halfway across the country when he lost a girl (well, hill) to another mountain. Peaks with permanent snow are guys, ones without are girls.

Date: 23 Feb 2011 01:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] l-clausewitz.livejournal.com
I have a lot of that kind of folklore from Indonesia--in Indonesian. Now I wonder if there's any money in translating them (and maybe annotating the hell out of them) for a Western audience?

Date: 23 Feb 2011 04:37 pm (UTC)
dejla: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dejla
Don't know about books yet, but there is this website...


Date: 23 Feb 2011 04:47 pm (UTC)
dejla: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dejla
Okay, did more searching. Haven't gotten into this particular mythology yet, but I probably should...

African Myths of Origin (Penguin Classics) [Paperback] Stephen Belcher 2006

African Folktales (The Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library) by Roger D. Abrahams (Aug 12, 1983)

The Hero with an African Face: Mythic Wisdom of Traditional Africa by Clyde W. Ford (Jan 4, 2000)

A Dictionary of African Mythology: The Mythmaker as Storyteller by Harold Scheub (Apr 11, 2002)

African Mythology Library of the World (Library of the World's Myths and Legends) by Edward Geoffrey Simons Parrinder and Geoffrey Parrinder (Nov 1998)

Essential African Mythology: Stories That Change the World by Ngangur Mbitu and Ranchor Prime (Jun 1997)

Anyway, those are where I would probably start hunting. Or I might look for a local university where I could access their library and hit the folklore sections.

Date: 23 Feb 2011 05:06 pm (UTC)
chibidrunksanzo: Can you tell me again for exposition's sake? (Default)
From: [personal profile] chibidrunksanzo
Giants, Monsters, and Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend, and Myth and its companion book Spirits, Fairies, Leprechauns, and Goblins: An Encyclopedia, both by Carol Rose.

They're bestiaries of both named and unnamed creatures from, well, everywhere. I have both of them, and they're wonderful. You can look up creatures by name, by type, by what they're associated with (moon and sun, catastrophe, weather, etc.), or by where they originate. The Spirits and Fairies book doesn't have anything from Africa, but while the number of entries from Africa in Giants, Monsters, & Dragons has is scanty compared to some other areas, what it does have is solid. (Although it's weird, I just looked and they have many entries from Japan and almost double those from China, Korea has precisely one, the Dragon-Carp. Maybe they combined entries.)

For an example of what they have from Africa, here's part of the entry for the Aigamuxa:

"In the mythology of the Khoisin people of South Africa, the Aigamuxa are man-eating monsters that inhabit the dunes of the Kalahari Desert. These curious humanoids are described as having their eyes placed either in the instep or on the heels of their feet, so that they are obliged to stop and lift a foot in order to see where they are going. Although they otherwise look relatively like humans, their huge bodies and heads make them fearsome adversaries, mainly because of their enormous fanglike teeth."

Date: 25 Feb 2011 03:57 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Bulgaria is technically in EU, but in case you don't have these already:

- samodiva / samovila - good wiki article in English: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samodiva

- karakonjul - there is a wiki article in Bulgarian only [http://bg.wikipedia.org/wiki/Караконджул]. A quick translation would be: this is a creature from folklore, it scares and harms humans; the creature looks like a hairy human with a big head, horns, tail, one eye, and one leg; according to different beliefs, it looked like half human, half horse, and also took on the forms of a naked small man, a dog, a calf, or a kid (goat offspring); according to some tales, the karakonjul lived only during the so-called 'dirty' days, from Christmas Eve to the Day of St. Yordan, which is why January is called the month of the karakonjul; the creature lived in caves, rivers, abandoned watermills, and places where ivy grows; according to some stories, it can also inhabit the dark or not easily accessible places of the farm, similar to a talasum, e.g. in the attic or the barn; the creature lured travelers and rode on them, threw its victims from high rocks or trees into deep water, or tore them into pieces with mill stones; the karakonjul did evil deeds only at night, until the first sound from cocks in the morning, after that it disappeared; it is noted that only the prefix of the word, kara-, is Turkish and means black; in many villages of the Rhodope mountains, the word is only konjur; the 'konjur' days are linked to a series of beliefs that likely are a remainder from Thracian times.

If you haven't come across 'talasum' before, there is a rather long article on it, too, that I could work on [Таласъм].

[Please excuse anything that doesn't make sense or is not natural-sounding in English.^^;]