How to Read a Folktale: The 'Ibonia' Epic from Madagascar

How to Read a Folktale: The 'Ibonia' Epic from Madagascar Lee Haring
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-909254-05-3 £17.95
Hardback ISBN: 978-1-909254-06-0 £32.95
PDF ISBN: 978-1-909254-07-7 £0.00
epub ISBN: 978-1-909254-08-4 £5.95
mobi ISBN: 978-1-909254-09-1 £5.95

Click here to read the PDF online for free Click here to read the HTML online for free

Haring's work is important for its preservation of some fascinating textual versions of verbal arts, for his contextual and analytical commentary, and for newer and broader approaches than the ones that characterized the earlier volume. It is a fine addition to the scholarship, in several European languages, of this epic hero and his socio-cultural and political roots.
—Robert Cancel, University of California, San Diego

The exact text of the story, its place in society and its literary context which are given in Haring’s book are a sure first steppingstone to further research. [...] The scholarly community is grateful to Haring for this present!
—Heda Jason, Fabula, 56/3-4 (2015): 344-46

How to Read a Folktale offers the first English translation of Ibonia, a spellbinding tale of old Madagascar. Ibonia is a folktale on epic scale. Much of its plot sounds familiar: a powerful royal hero attempts to rescue his betrothed from an evil adversary and, after a series of tests and duels, he and his lover are joyfully united with a marriage that affirms the royal lineage. These fairytale elements link Ibonia with European folktales, but the tale is still very much a product of Madagascar. It contains African-style praise poetry for the hero; it presents Indonesian-style riddles and poems; and it inflates the form of folktale into epic proportions. Recorded when the Malagasy people were experiencing European contact for the first time, Ibonia proclaims the power of the ancestors against the foreigner.

Through Ibonia, Lee Haring expertly helps readers to understand the very nature of folktales. His definitive translation, originally published in 1994, has now been fully revised to emphasize its poetic qualities, while his new introduction and detailed notes give insight into the fascinating imagination and symbols of the Malagasy. Haring’s research connects this exotic narrative with fundamental questions not only of anthropology but also of literary criticism.

How to Read a Folktale is the fourth volume in our World Oral Literature Series. The Series is produced in conjunction with the World Oral Literature Project.

How to Read a Folktale: The ‘Ibonia’ Epic from Madagascar
Lee Haring | October 2013
x + 153 | 6.14" x 9.21" (234 x 156 mm)
World Oral Literature Series, vol. 4 | ISSN: 2050-7933 (Print); 2054-362X (Online)
ISBN Paperback: 9781909254053
ISBN Hardback: 9781909254060
ISBN Digital (PDF): 9781909254077
ISBN Digital ebook (epub): 9781909254084
ISBN Digital ebook (mobi): 9781909254091
DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0034
BIC subject codes: JFHF (Folklore, myths and legends), JHMC (Social and cultural anthropology, ethnography), DC (Poetry); BISAC: LIT022000 (LITERARY CRITICISM / Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Legends & Mythology), LIT004010 (Literary criticism / African); OCLC Number: 1086429597.

You may also be interested in:
Foreword to Ibonia
Mark Turin


1. Introduction: What Ibonia is and How to Read it

2. How to Read Ibonia: Folkloric Restatement

3. What it is: Texts, Plural

4. Texture and Structure: How it is Made

5. Context, History, Interpretation

6. Ibonia, He of the Clear and Captivating Glance
There Is No Child
Her Quest for Conception
The Locust Becomes a Baby
The Baby Chooses a Wife and Refuses Names
His Quest for a Birthplace
Yet Unnamed
Refusing Names from Princes
The Name for a Perfected Man
Stone Man Shakes
He Refuses More Names
He Arms Himself
He Is Tested
He Combats Beast and Man
He Refuses Other Wives
The Disguised Flayer
An Old Man Becomes Stone Man’s Rival
Victory: "Dead, I Do Not Leave You on Earth; Living, I Give You to No Man”
Return of the Royal Couple
Ibonia Prescribes Laws and Bids Farewell

Appendix: Versions and Variants
Text 0, "Rasoanor”. Antandroy, 1650s. Translated from Étienne de Flacourt (1661)
Text 2, "Ibonia”. Merina tale collected in 1875–1877. James Sibree Jr. (1884)
Text 3, Merina tale collected in 1875–1877. Summary by John Richardson (1877)
Text 6, "The king of the north and the king of the south”. Merina tale collected in 1907–1910 at Alasora, region of Antananarivo. Translated from Charles Renel, Charles (1910)
Text 7, "Iafolavitra the adulterer”. Tanala tale collected in 1907–1910 in Ikongo region, Farafangana province. Translated from Charles Renel (1910)
Text 8, "Soavololonapanga”. Bara tale, ca. 1934. Translated from Raymond Decary (1964)
Text 9, "The childless couple”. Antankarana tale, collected in 1907–1910 at Manakana, Vohemar province. Translated from Charles Renel (1910)
Text 14, "The story of Ravato-Rabonia”. Sakalava, 1970s. Translated from Suzanne Chazan-Gillig (1991)

Works Cited


Lee Haring is Professor Emeritus of English at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York and the recepient of the 2013 American Folklore Society Lifetime Scholarly Achievement Award. He specializes in the oral literatures of the Indian Ocean islands, and his Malagasy Tale Index is a standard reference work in the field. He has conducted folklore fieldwork in Kenya, Madagascar, and Mauritius. In Verbal Arts in Madagascar he mapped the interrelations of the island’s riddles, proverbs, poetry, and oratory. His book Stars and Keys: Folk-tales and Creolization in the Indian Ocean shows the cultural interrelations of five sets of islands – Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion, the Comoros, and Seychelles – through translating and commenting on over a hundred stories. In Mauritius he has published the bilingual field manual Collecting Folklore in Mauritius in English and Kreol; in India he has published two tale collections. With OBP he has published Imagined Performances: Comoran Folktales (2018). He has taught in graduate folklore programs at the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Connecticut.
The original versions of many of the texts translated in this volume are available below.

Text 0: Flacourt, Étienne de, Histoire de la Grande Isle Madagascar (Paris: Gervais Clouzier, 1661) 62-63. Click here for the Google eBook.

Text 1: Dahle, Lars, Specimens of Malagasy Folk-Lore (Antananarivo: A. Kingdon, 1877) 108-155. Click here to download the pdf.

Text 2: Dahle, Lars, Specimens of Malagasy Folk-Lore (Antananarivo: A. Kingdon, 1877) 154-163. Click here to download the pdf.

Text 6: Renel, Charles, Contes de Madagascar (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1910) 1:168-74. Click here to download the pdf.

Text 7: Renel, Charles, Contes de Madagascar (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1910) 2:32-34. Click here to download the pdf.

Text 9: Renel, Charles, Contes de Madagascar (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1910) 1:196-200. Click here to download the pdf.

Click here for a recorded performance of Haring's translation of Ibonia, by US students (1984).