Folktales of Mayotte, an African Island - cover image

Book Series


Lee Haring

Published On





  • English

Print Length

198 pages (vi+192)


Paperback156 x 14 x 234 mm(6.14" x 0.54" x 9.21")
Hardback156 x 17 x 234 mm(6.14" x 0.67" x 9.21")


Paperback382g (13.47oz)
Hardback560g (19.75oz)



OCLC Number





  • JHMC
  • JBGB


  • JFHF
  • JHMC
  • HBTD


  • SOC002010
  • SOC011000


  • GR360.M348


  • oral narrators
  • literary skills
  • versatility
  • small African island
  • French ethnographer
  • interview
  • 1970s-80s
  • ancient values
  • preservation
  • postcolonial world
  • island of Mayotte

Folktales of Mayotte, an African Island

The book uncovers the versatility and literary skills of oral narrators in a small African island. Relying on the researches of three French ethnographers who interviewed storytellers in the 1970s-80s, Lee Haring shows a once-colonised people using verbal art to preserve ancient values in the postcolonial world, when the island of Mayotte was transforming itself from a neglected colony to an overseas department of France.

The author’s innovation is to read ethnographic researches as play scripts—to see printed folktales as accounts of live performances. One storyteller after another comments symbolically on what it is like to be a formerly colonised population. Storytelling women, in particular, combine diverse plots and characters to create traditional-sounding stories, which could not have been predicted from the African, Malagasy, Indian, and European traditions coexisting in Mayotte. Haring’s account shows them to be particularly skilled at irony and ambiguity, conveying both submissive and rebellious attitudes in their tales. He makes Mayotte storytelling accessible to a new, English-speaking audience and demonstrates that traditional storytellers in those years were preserving, but also critiquing, their inherited social order in a changing world. Their creative intentions, cultural influences and widely different narrative styles constitute Mayotte’s system of the arts of the word.

Literary specialists, folklore enthusiasts, and people who like reading stories will find much to appreciate in this engaging and sophisticated book.


Lee Haring’s study of the oral tales of the Mayotte through the lenses of literary theory successfully opens new avenues in folklore scholarship.

Prof Dan Ben-Amos

University of Pennsylvania

Additional Resources

[spreadsheet]Index of the storytellers(Taylor Hein)



(pp. 1–2)
  • Mark Turin


(pp. 3–8)
  • Lee Haring

1. Mayotte Is Ours

(pp. 11–48)
  • Lee Haring
  • Lee Haring
  • Lee Haring


Lee Haring

Professor Emeritus of English at Brooklyn College

Lee Haring is Professor Emeritus of English at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. He has taught in graduate folklore programs at the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Connecticut. He has conducted folklore fieldwork in Kenya, Madagascar (as Fulbright Senior Lecturer), and Mauritius (as Fulbright researcher). His book Stars and Keys: Folktales and Creolization in the Indian Ocean translates and comments on a hundred stories from Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion, the Comoros, and Seychelles. He has also published Malagasy Tale Index, a comprehensive analysis of folktales; the English translation of Ibonia, Epic of Madagascar, available at; Verbal Arts in Madagascar, a study of four genres of oral literature; the bilingual field manual Collecting Folklore in Mauritius, in English and Kreol, two tale collections; and numerous journal articles. In 2013 he was given a Lifetime Scholarly Achievement Award by the American Folklore Society.

Mark Turin

(foreword by)
Associate Professor at University of British Columbia