Lee Haring

Published On


Page Range

pp. 121–174

Print Length

54 pages

3. Giving an Account of Herself

  • Lee Haring (author)
Chapter of: Folktales of Mayotte, an African Island(pp. 121–174)
Chapter 3 brings into the foreground, by name, the women storytellers recorded by Sophie Blanchy, who has extensively studied Comoran society and custom. Their social criticism more often focuses on a misogynistic man, even on a hypocritical Islamic master, than on a lazy wife. If in a story, a young girl is mistreated by her father’s new wife, almost to real or symbolic death, and then is recognized and restored to her proper place through the supernatural intervention of her dead mother, the fiction corresponds all too closely to family tensions in 1980s Mayotte. The central theme is the precious mother-daughter relation; ideally a daughter aspires to blend into her mother and live in her house. Verbal art in Mayotte exists to celebrate that relation. Performing such an oral tale is an instance of Hélène Cixous’s ‘woman writing herself’.


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.