THE ROOTOMOM TREE by Margaret Elbow


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Elbow admits to being well-traveled but sets this simulated ""fable"" in a nonspecific non-western culture so as to be free ""to invent the names for things, plants, and animals."" And invent she does: first there is Benja and the borra bark he's sent to fetch to fuel the rice pot; then there are the delicious salapala seeds and birney berries and the forbidden rootoman seed--which, when Benja swallows it, causes a tree to grow from his head. There are Benja's new friends Jara the parrot, Momo the monkey, and Chaheetoh the lizard, who visit or live in his tree. In addition there are weaver birds, popping toads, and carpenter ants, ZuZuZ the bee, and Pengli Possum; and they all help Benja trick Keroh the vulture into eating a seed that grows from the fruit that has sprouted from the Rootomom tree on his head. It's all as characterless and gratuitous as it sounds, and stretched out past endurance. For a similar situation invested with humor, style, and ethnic identity, see Say's Once Under the Cherry Blossom Tree (1974).

Pub Date: March 22nd, 1978
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin