Wearing a deliberate African patina, this refreshing collection of 16 Aesop fables takes place in the South African veld, giving these timeless moral tales a visual and verbal facelift.
In opening remarks, Naidoo theorizes Aesop originated from Africa, accounting for a prevalence of African animals in his fables and a penchant for the moral lessons characteristic of African folktales. Cultivating this African flavor, Naidoo sprinkles her text with native words and phrases such as “mealie” (corn) and “mampara” (fool), providing footnote translations when appropriate. In typical Aesop fashion, animals serve as lead characters, but Naidoo adds to the African texture by populating the tales with distinctive African animals like zebras, jackals, braks (mongrel dogs), rinkhals (spitting cobra), snake eagles, klipspringer (small antelope) and kudu (large grey antelope). Despite the African twist, the single-action narrative of each fable preserves the impersonal moral tone of the originals, emphasizing discretion (“The Old Lion”), prudence (“The Lion and the Warthog”), moderation (“The Eagle and the Tortoise”) and forethought (“The Grasshopper and the Ants”). Primitive, whimsical watercolor-and-pencil illustrations preserve the African theme. Decorative borders set off each fable, while full-page illustrations capture the drama, foolishness or humor with special focus on the droll antics and expressions of the animal characters.
A delightful new rendition of some old favorites. (Fables. 5-11)