Glinton-Meicholas (Chasing Light, 2013, etc.) offers a culturally rich collection of Bahamian folk tales.
The Bahamas boasts a time-honored tradition of storytelling, and it’s through such short, fantastical tales that many children learn the importance of good manners, humility, respect for elders, the consequences of greed, and the gift of love. In this treasury, Glinton-Meicholas focuses on “the ol’ story,” or the traditional characters and motifs of her birthplace, Cat Island, also known as Guanima. These folk tales feature brief musical interludes or “sings,” often used to announce a main character or plot twist, to heighten tension, or to serve as call and response between characters. The players therein are often manifestations of good or evil, intelligence or stupidity, power or weakness. Beneficent behavior is rewarded, and bad behavior is punished; disobedience and selfishness are particularly called out—from the lazy Bouki, who bails on the responsibilities of cow ownership but hoards milk and meat, to a drummer’s son whose urgent need to play the instrument lands him in a dangerous competition with a witch. The author imparts valuable moral lessons through the experiences of tricksters and animals, as in a spiritual parable about the dangers of comparison in “Why the Serpent Has a Cleft Tongue and Crawls on His Belly.” The author carefully explains cultural references in footnotes, such as the meaning of a “fire half” (a hearth) or a “kukumakai” (a magic stick). Throughout, her poetic language evokes powerful visuals: she describes a carriage as “blacker than the heart of a hurricane,” a woman’s skin as “the colour of honey from bees feeding on wild marigolds,” teeth that “sparkled like sea-washed pebbles,” and a dancing couple “as beautiful as a pair of golden banana birds.” The Bahamian lexicon can be challenging to decipher, though; phrases such as “Borry dis, gimme dat! Das all you an’ yuh pa know!” may slow down the reading process.
An educational and fanciful journey through classic stories.