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African Folk Tale Library (AFTL): Methods

A Collection of resources on and for promoting African Folktales



Geographic:  The continent of Africa.  We wish to collect folk tales of all people dwelling in of from Africa.

Temporal:  All times.  In practice this scope encompasses written records form Ancient Egypt to audio or visual recordings of contemporary informants. 

Language:  Our scope at present is oriented around what might be considered the "native" languages of Africa exemplified by those belonging to the Niger-Congo, Nilo-Saharan, Afroasiatic, and Khoisan language families.  Later additions may include sources in French, Arabic, Afrikaans and other languages spoken in Africa.

Content:  Definitions of "folk tale" are myriad,b ut are generally characterized by a narrative format, with anonymous authorship and are transmitted orally.  Genres of the folk tale include:  fairy tales with a hero and villain, ghost stories that depict visitations from the departed, legends that commemorate  an important event in history or a memorable person, and epics that describe the trials and victories of heroes either spoken or sung.

Parables are an exemplary African genre that does not normally qualify as a folk tale, but which we may include within the AFTL.



Because folk tales are an oral tradition several complications arise when recording them in print.  First Folk Tales have a high degree of physicality and recording them in print omits dynamic aspects of gesticulation, facial expressions, intonation and inflection in its delivery.  Second the dynamic aspects of improvisation also are lost when folk tales are presented in specimen form.  Historic collections of folk tales often illustrate 

In an effort to mitigate the loss of converting oral literature into print, the AFTL recognizes four format levels:


1.  Historic text recording comprising a specimen in the original language and a translation.

2. Contemporary text recording comprising a specimen in the original language and a translation.

3. Audio recording of the informant with a text transcription in the original language and a translation.

4.  Video recording of the informant with a text transcription in the original language and a translation. 

The format levels are numbers by increasing degree of preference with Level 1 representing the minimum required for inclusion and level 4 representing the most the highest preference for meeting the goals of the library.

The Informant

Demographic data like Place of birth, sex, and birth year are recorded to infer the social context of the informant, which will have to be more fully expressed by knowledge derived from other disciplines.  

Recording Informant Data:

The name of living informants will be redacted from the library to maintain privacy.  for informants that decline to provide personal data, 

Propp Notation:  Folk tales are

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