3 thoughts on “Arab Folktales

  1. Just in case you didn’t get enough of 1001 Nights, in this volume Inea Bushnaq has collected a number of Arab folktales from across the Middle East. The stories are divided into sections such as religious teaching and love and romance, with each section preceded by a short introduction which contains important cultural information, such as the fame of Djuha as a stock character or women in the Bedouin tribe. Anyone into folklore or the Middle East in general would enjoy this book.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  2. This book is beautifully written. Bushnaq’s work will ensure that Arab folklore remains alive and well, particularly amongst those Arabs living in the West.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  3. Inea Bushnaq was born and raised in Jerusalem and Syria. She was also educated in England, earning a degree in classics from Cambridge. In this volume, she has translated scores of folk tales from the Arabic into English. In gathering the stories for this collection, Inea returned to where she had first heard them – “to rural Palestine, on what is now called the West Bank”(p 379). She also drew upon the research of students of the folklore department at Bir Zeit University and upon the research of the In’ash al-usra Society, as well as the works of European scholars of Arabic such as the Deutschmen Hans Schmidt, Bruno Meissner, and Enno Littmann. The tales she encountered were so numerous that she had to leave out more than she could include, so she chose stories “in favor of style over plot”(p382). Most of the tales come from Algeria, Arabia, Iraq, Palestine, and Syria.

    The author has arranged her tales under 7 sub-chapters: 1) Tales Told in Houses Made of Hair; 2) Djinn, Ghouls, and Afreets; 3) Magical Marriages and Mismatches; 4) Beasts That Roam the Earth and Birds That Fly with Wings; 5) Famous Fools and Rascals; 6) Good Men and Golden Words; and 7) Wily Women and Clever Men. These chapters are preceded by an Introduction and a Glossary of the strangely transliterated Arabic words she has chosen not to translate within her tales. The introduction is divided into 6 sub-headings: 1) Embroidery with Word and Thread; 2) Storytellers, Private and Public; 3) The Pillars of Islam; 4) The Hajj; 5) The Tiller of the Soil, at Work and at Rest; and 6) Peasant Dialects and Learned Journals. The volume concludes with ‘How This Book Was Put Together’ and a Bibliography of Sources.

    Revealed through the variety of themes covered by the tales in this collection is the tendency of the Arab-speaking commoner toward superstition especially concerning the Jinn race. Islaam teaches that God created Jinns as a race to worship him same as man, and that from both are those who rebel against God to do evil. But the Arabic-speaking peasant tends to believe that all Jinn are evil, when Islaam teaches otherwise. Nonetheless, this delightful collection of Arabic folk tales is not only good reading but deserves a place on the shelf with other serious works of folklore and children’s literature.

    Rating: 5 / 5

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