African-American folklore inspires meeting of the minds

The Harvard Gazette  February 5, 2018


“The Annotated African American Folktales,” is a collaboration between Harvard scholars Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr. and Maria Tatar. Published by the Norton imprint Liveright in November, the book was recently honored with an NAACP Image Award for outstanding literary achievement.

Dr. Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr. and Dr. Maria Tatar

The authors were interviewed together, discussing their collaboration as well as the folktales. Tatar said, “These stories show how connected we all are. I can remember one day looking at folk tales collected in the 19th century by African missionaries and anthropologists. Suddenly I recognized motifs and plot features from “The Juniper Tree,” a story considered European at its core. The Grimms have a version of that story in dialect, and they saw it as a quintessentially German tale. But here was “The Juniper Tree,” as part of an oral storytelling culture in Africa. What we think of as European stories are not so European after all.”

The goal for the book was to provide fantastic stories for children while also serving folktale scholars.

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