“A collection that draws readers into the world of African everyday life and then keeps us there, maintaining a level of excitement while seamlessly providing an enchanting cultural education.”
Journal of Folklore Research
“Makuchi's ingenuity in translating Beba folktales loaded with proverbs, metaphorical meanings, and references constitutes an engaging and thought-provoking contribution to an ever-growing body of scholarship that promotes the sociocultural and aesthetic relevance of African oral literature to contemporary realities.”
“Since no other collection of Cameroon folktales is readily available in English, this is a useful addition to the literature of folklore. Recommended. All readers, all levels.”
The Sacred Door and Other Stories: Cameroon Folktales of the Beba offers readers a selection of folktales infused with riddles, proverbs, songs, myths, and legends, using various narrative techniques that capture the vibrancy of Beba oral traditions. Makuchi retells the stories that she heard at home when she was growing up in her native Cameroon.
The collection of thirty-four folktales of the Beba showcases a wide variety of stories that capture the richness and complexities of an agrarian society’s oral literature and traditions. Revenge, greed, and deception are among the themes that frame the story lines in both new and familiar ways. In the title story, a poor man finds himself elevated to king. The condition for his continued success is that he not open the sacred door. This tale of temptation, similar to the story of Pandora’s box, concludes with the question, “What would you have done?”
Makuchi relates the stories her mother told her so that readers can make connections between African and North American oral narrative traditions. These tales reinforce the commonalities of our human experiences without discounting our differences.
Makuchi is professor of English and Comparative Literature at North Carolina State University, Raleigh. Her publications include a book of short fiction, Your Madness, Not Mine: Stories of Cameroon, and Gender in African Women’s Writing: Identity, Sexuality, and Difference.
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