Lee Haring

Published On


Page Range

pp. 49–120


  • English

Print Length

72 pages

2. Varieties of Performing

  • Lee Haring (author)
Chapter of: Folktales of Mayotte, an African Island(pp. 49–120)
Chapter 2 benefits from a larger corpus collected over several years by Noël J. Gueunier and his collaborator Madjidhoubi Said. Numerous versions of Africa’s most widespread folktale, the defiant girl who marries a monster in human disguise, reinforce the importance of making a proper marriage. The popularity of the tale, in many versions in a small island, show performers varying it in tone and borrowing elements from other tales. One version is totally politicized. Other adaptations change the wife from victim into a potent folktale heroine. Narrators also tell about the trickster Bwanawasi (note his Swahili name), use semi-autobiography or familiar names and places to keep their hearers engaged, perform a classic French fairytale, or create stories of their own parodying traditional models or even cinema thrillers. In such a dominated society, parody is a prime tool for reappropriating inherited or borrowed materials. That is the style of creolization, the process whereby people in situations of unequal power renegotiate language and culture and create new art, music, and literature.


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.