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African Tales and Myths

Things to Consider:

  • Myths vs. Tales
  • Polytheism
  • Animism
  • Male & Female Roles
  • Ancestor Worship
  • Versions of Creation
  • Transmission and Translation:
    • History of Colonialism in Africa
    • The African Saga

** Homework Questions **
(Page #s refer to the pdf



  • Why were African poetry and proverbs ignored for so long?
  • Traditionally, was African culture monotheistic or polytheistic? Explain.


  • How does the African Supreme God differ from Greek and Roman gods and goddesses?
  • How are myths different from tales?


“Story of Creation”

  • How does Mbere make man? How does this version of creation compare to other versions you’ve read or heard of?


“Story of the Beginning”

  • How does Nzame compare to the Christian or Jewish god?

“Lie and Truth”


  • Are “Lie” and “Truth” really people? Explain.
  • Is this a myth or a tale? Explain. What, if any, is the moral?

“The Dog and The Cock”


  • Describe the treatment of women in this piece.
  • Is this a myth or a tale? Explain.

Other Discussion Questions:


  • Generally, what does early oral traditional poetry examine?


“Why Earth”

  • Who makes man?
  • Why is the Earth peopled?


“The Story of the Beginning of Things”

  • Explain the significance of the first sentence.
  • Who is Fam? Describe his relationship with Nzame.


  • Who/What is Nssissim?


  • What are the three “commandments”? What is the punishment for violating them?

“The Origin of Death”


  • Does the moon really “die”? Explain.

“The Human Race”


  • According to this story, how does a woman help a man “refresh” himself?
  • Why is the horse-woman greedy?
  • Why are the dog-women spiteful?


    “The Spider and the Mason-fly”

    • Is this a tale or a myth? Explain.

    “Spider Tries His Wives”

    • Why does Spider need to “try” his wives?

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