There are many a term which come in these folktales. Although most of
the terms have been explained in the books themselves as their footnotes
still they are given there in very short. Here are the terms, arranged alphabetically,
explained in detail....
Pronounced as Akaaraa, Akara is a kind of snack item. It is made by soaking a kind
of beans (black-eyed beans or red beans), taking off its skin and grinding it into
a fine paste. Salt, pepper, onion pieces are added to it and small balls of about 1
to 1 and 1/2 inches diameter are fried in deep oil till golden brown. 6-7 Akaaraa
balls are enough to satisfy one for about 3 hours.
(Yoruba-3, Story No 26)
Alaabe is the man who makes marks on the faces of people according to their tribes.
In Africa there are still tribes and most tribes have some kind of marks on their
faces to recognize their own and differentiate others.
God in Guinea, a West African country.
Amala (pronounced as Amaalaa) is also very popular food of Nigeria and is eaten
with meat soup. Its color is a bit on gray side.
An Amadumbe is a a potato-like tuber that resembles a sweet potato. It has a
rich earthy flavor and a starchy flesh. In South Africa, it is a very common
Pronounced as Anaanse is an intelligent tortoise of West African folktales -
especially of Ghana. His first name is Kweku because he was born on Wednesday.
Usually he is known as Ananse only.
Rabbit, tortoise, hyena, lion, monkey, frog, are the main characters of
Appalachian Region (In
Appalachian Region is the Eastern region of USA, including several states -
starting from Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina,
Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland and
A piece of
cloth worn over the dress to save one’s dress from being spoiled while
Armadillos are mammals with a leathery armor shell. Of the 20 varieties of
armadillo, all but one live in South America. Armadillo is a Spanish word
meaning "little armored one” and refers to the bony plates that cover the back,
head, legs, and tail of most of these odd looking creatures. Armadillos are the
only living mammals that wear such shells.
Baba Yaga stories are very famous Russian stories.
Baker is the man who bakes.
different from frying, roasting etc processes of cooking food. Baking is
done in oven. Baking is very common and normal practice in western
A barrel is one of several units of volume applied in various contexts;
there are dry barrels, fluid barrels (such as the UK beer barrel and US
beer barrel), oil barrels and so on. For historical reasons the volumes
of some barrel units are roughly double the volumes of others; volumes
in common usage range from about 100 liters (22 imperial gallons; 26 US
gallons) to 200 liters (44 imperial gallons; 53 US gallons). In many
connections the term "drum" is used almost interchangeably with
generic term for any kind of seed grown in a pod (legumes). They can be
green also with pod like green beans, cluster beans etc; or dry beans
also like soy beans, broad beans, black-eyed beans, all whole pulses
(lentils, black lentils, green lentils etc). Here beans means dry beans
like black-eyed beans.
Beaver, a hedgehog type animal, is a primarily nocturnal, large, semi-aquatic
rodent. It is found in North America and Eurasia. Beavers are known for building
dams, canals, and lodges (homes).
Berries – it is generic word for a kind of small sized fruit which grows
on bushes. Some examples of berries are blackberry, blueberry, cranberry,
raspberry etc - they are very popular in North America and Canada. In India
berries are like Indian Ber or "Jharberee Ke Ber" or Phaalasaa
which also grow on bushes. Umdoni berry is found in Southern Africa.
In many African countries it is customary to pay bride price to the bride's
parents before marrying her. It is like reverse dowry as it is paid in India
by bride's parents to bridegroom's parents before marrying her to him.
In Nigeria bush means wild or related to forest.
In South Africa there is a tribe called Bushmen. They also live in forest and
Bushel is a unit of dry measure containing 4 pecks, equivalent in the US (and
formerly in England) to 2150.42 cubic inches or 35.24 liters (Winchester bushel)
and in Great Britain to 2219.36 cubic inches or 36.38 liters (Imperial bushel).
Butcher Bird takes its origin from the bird's habit of impaling its prey on a
thorn while eating it, and leaving the remains there to decay. It is mentioned
in South African tales.
Calabash is the dried outer cover of pumpkin type of fruit in Nigeria.
It is like a clay pitcher and is used to keep dry and wet things.
Canadian Jay is a crow like bird
Cape Town is one of the most captivating cities of Africa and the second mot
populated city of South Africa after Johannesberg. It is most famous as the
harbor of South Africa.
An herb like tropical plant with a long stock, found mostly underwater,
that yields a nutritious starch. It is a common food eaten in Nigeria. It
is prepared like Yam and eaten with meat soup.
Camel Thorn or Giraffe Thorn
A thorny tree found in South Africa
A kind of worm, about 2-3” long, with several legs
Chestnut is a kind of walnut like fruit, dark brown in color, which is
eaten after roasting on fire like corn ear.
One's personal God for Africans.
A loose wrapping worn on a dress to cover oneself or to keep one warm.
Cousins are the brothers and sisters who are the children of mother’s or
father’s brothers and sisters
A small size wolf who is very cunning and normally outwits most animals,
mostly found in Western America. Found in American and Canadian folktales.
The crone is a stock character in folklore and fairy tale, an old woman. In some
stories, she is disagreeable, malicious, or sinister in manner, often with
magical or supernatural associations that can make her either helpful or
obstructing. The Crone is also an archetypal figure, a Wise Woman. She is
marginalized by her exclusion from the reproductive cycle, and her proximity to
death places her in contact with occult wisdom. As a character type, the crone
shares characteristics with the hag. Otherwise the word "crone" is a less common
synonym for "old woman,"
Cubit is a unit of measurement used in very olden days. It was used in Solomon's
time. But it is mentioned in our Indian Mahaabhaarat book also. One cubit = 18",
or 45 cms, or 1/2 a yard, or according to old measurement One Haath (while Haath
is the length from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger).
Czar or Tzar or Tsar is an informal title for certain high-level officials in
the United States and the United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom, the term tsar
is more loosely used to refer to high-profile appointments who devote their
skills to one particular area. This was a title of the ruler of Russia before
Medicine man word is used in many African folktales. This man is very versatile.
He may treat his subjects with herbs or Ju Ju or something else. So whoever
treats people from their sickness is called medicine man there. In those times
there was never doctor there, that is why while translating these stories this
word has been translated as "doctor".
In India the dowry is given by bride's parents to groom's parents, but
in Nigeria it is given by the groom to bride's parents. If the
bride does not want to live with her husband for any reason, and comes
back to her parents, they have to pay the dowry given by the groom back
to him. Most of the time they are not in a position to return it, so
they sell their daughter as a slave and the money they receive out
of it, they pay back to the groom. In Nigeria slave's condition is very
bad. Nobody wants to be a slave of anybody.
Eba or Ebba is a kind of Nigerian food. This is a starchy food made from Cassava
flour by boiling it in water and making it in a lump. It is eaten with
meat soup. It is rather unappetizing to eat all by itself.
Elf (plural Elves), is supernatural being in Germanic mythology and
folklore. Elf is prominently associated with sexual threats, seducing
people and causing them harm.
(Nigeria, Western. Story No 33)
These are the poisonous beans which are used to test a man if he is a
witch or not. If he vomits the beans, he is not a witch; but if he does
not vomit them, he is a witch, and then he dies a very painful death -
thus if he is not a witch he vomits the beans otherwise he dies.
In Nigerian tribes, there is a custom of Fatter House. There the marriages of
girls are settled in a very young age, so till they reach their marriageable
age, they are taken care by their parents very carefully. They live in these
Fatter House, they don't do any work in the house except eating, drinking
and playing with their friends. The day they come out of that house, they are
married and go to their husband's house.
Foo Foo is a kind of food eaten in Nigeria. It comes from a tree.
The gondola is a traditional, flat-bottomed Venetian rowing boat, well
suited to the conditions of the Venetian lagoon.
Gourd is the dried outer cover of a pumpkin like fruit.
A hag is a wizened old woman, or a kind of fairy or goddess having the
appearance of such a woman, often found in folklore and children's tales such
as Hansel and Gretel. Hags are often seen as malevolent, but may also be one of
the chosen forms of shape shifting deities.
Hare is different from Rabbit in size and look. Hare is not a domestic
animal and live on the ground as opposed to Rabbit who is a domestic
animal and lives in burrows. The hare, like tortoise, appears in countless African folktales as an excellent
illustration of the principle that those who are not strong must be clever.
The Spirit of Frost. In American Indian folktales.
The trickster Hlakanyana is one of the most important mythical figures
in Zulu folklore. But characters similar to Hlakanyana are also found
in other stories of other indigenous languages. See also Sankhambi below.
Hyena (pronounced as Haheenaa) is a kind of large dog with stripes or spots.
It is a carnivorous animal. It is a very common character of African
Iktomi (Spider Fairy)
Iktomi is a spider fairy.
Magic or Tonaa Totakaa or Black Magic. The people who practice it can
tell many things, do many good and bad things. This may be understood
more clearly after reading a few Nigerian stories. It is very famous
Ju Ju People
Ju Ju people of Nigeria are like Ojhaa of India who help to cure the
patients of Black Magic and even to do Black Magic themselves on
somebody. They can even call the Spirit.
Kilt is knee-length garment with pleats at the rear originating in the
traditional dress of the men in the Scottish highlands of the 16th
Kola nut is the seed of an abundantly found fruit Kola in Nigeria and
West African countries. It is used there like Indian betel nut (Supaaree).
People chew it as and when they want it, keep it in their pockets and
when they meet their friends give a piece to him too.
Kweku, sometimes given as Kweku Tsin is a confusing name as Ananse or Anansi.
Sometimes this name is given to the main spider character and somewhere it is
mentioned as the son of Anansi's son.
A Laird is a member of the Scottish gentry, who bears the designation
Laird of X, where X is the place name during 15th or 16th century. In
the non-peerage table of precedence, a Laird ranks below a Baron and
above an Esquire, for example Laird of Haltoun...
Modern-day Laos has its roots in the ancient Lao kingdom of Lan Xang,
established in the 14th century under King FA NGUM. On its East is
Vietnam, and on its West is Thailand, and on its North-West are China
and Burma. Population: 6,803,699 (July 2014 est.)
Lobola is the bride price to be given by the boy's party at the time of marriage
in a part of South Africa.
In most villages of Africa, villages markets are organized weekly or bi-weekly,
actually weekly, thus this might mean seven weeks.
An animal from American Indian folktales. Marmot is a large size squirrel. Most
of them live in mountainous areas.
It is an American Indian custom of marriage that when the girl’s mother is
ready to marry her daughter to some boy, she would ask her daughter to take
marriage bread to her boyfriend or would be husband, which means that her
mother is ready to give her daughter to him.
In Hindi it is called Baajaraa. A small-seeded cereal and forage grasses
cultivated for grain or hay. It is eaten whole or ground as flour.
Moles are small cylindrical mammals adapted to a subterranean lifestyle.
They have velvety fur; tiny or invisible ears and eyes, reduced hind
limbs; and short, powerful forelimbs with large paws positioned for
Also called Chevrotain. Translated as "Chhotaa Hiran" this extant
species are found in forests in South and Southeast Asia, with a single
species in the rainforests of Central and West Africa. They are solitary
or live in pairs, and feed almost exclusively on plant material.
Depending on exact species, the Asian species weigh between 0.7 and 8.0
kg (1.5 and 17.6 lb), and include the smallest ungulates in the world.
The African chevrotain is considerably larger at 7–16 kg (15–35 lb).
There are two stories related to this New Yam celebration. They are in
the stories of "Folktales from Southern
Nigeria" - Nos 30 and 31. This was a kind of celebration of
the town at the end of the year. Every year before sowing new yam this
festival is celebrated for three days and three nights. Before celebrating
this nobody eats new yam.
A Spider. Found in Native American and Canadian folktales.
Mentioned in Kenyan folktales.
Nyame (Sky God)
Nyame (pronounced as
Nyaamee), the Great One or the Supreme God, is the Sky God of Akan people of
Ghana, Western Africa. His mother's name is Nguna who was created by her own
son. It is said that he is the maker of animals, forests and birds. He created
the first human being also - Kamunu. His wife is Asase Ya, goddess of Earth.
They have two children - Tano the River god and Bia, the god of wild animals.
His servant is Anansi (the spider), the Trickster god who brought the knowledge
and stories to the world.
The Sun and the Moon
are his two eyes - right eye and left eye, which he opens in day and night
respectively. We have Nyame's two stories in our collection - one is
Ananse Aur Aasamaan
Kaa Devtaa and Makkaa
Ke Ek Daane Ke Badale Main Patnee.
Oba is the Yoruba language word for the kings of Yorubaland, but now it
is used extensively in West African Republics - Nigeria, Togo, Benin.
They are rich and powerful. Oba had many wives. Before, when any Oba
died people used to hide in their homes because after his death the
people of his family needed some people to be buried alive with him.
They went in the village and caught anybody who was out of his house.
So a few people were buried alive with Oba.
See its detailed description at
Extracted from palm tree nuts and most used cooking oil in Nigeria.
Palm wine, also known as "palm toddy" or "toddy" is a
fermented drink made from the sap collected from virtually any species of
palm tree. Palm wine is well liked throughout West Africa where some 10
million people consume it nationwide. Its popularity does not end in Africa,
however; it is also a common beverage in India (in India it is called Taadee),
Sri Lanka and the Philippines, among other countries.
Pancake and Maple Syrup
Pancakes are made of white flour, about 4-5” diameter and 1/2” thick in size,
cooked on a griddle on both sides. Then they are covered with maple syrup – a
honey like material extracted from maple tree found in Canada abundantly, or
normal honey or butter or other kinds of syrups and eaten. How the maple syrup
is made is given in 8-Canada Kee
Lok Kathaayen, Doosaraa Bhaag
Paraka is the American Indian's native dress
A character of Lesotho folktales.
Plantain is a banana like fruit, but a lot bigger in size. It is mostly
available in tropical areas. In Nigeria is is eaten as fresh fruit like
banana. They make a dish also out of it called Do Do. It is made by
cutting the ripe plantain pulp in about 1 1/2 to 2 inches pieces and
then frying them. It is eaten as snack. One feels satisfied after eating
4-6 pieces depending on- their size. It is found in Kerala state of India
Plantain is used in many ways in Nigeria. Its leaves are used to tie
food to steam, to spread as roof on huts etc. Its fruit is eaten.
Translated as Cat (Billee). It is a kind of cat found in Africa and
Eurasia. It has a remarkably bad smelling secretion to mark its
Among American Indians of the Northern Pacific coast, especially among
the Kwakiutl, Potlach is a ceremonial festival at which gifts are bestowed on the
guests and property is destroyed by its owner in a show of wealth that
the guests later attempt to surpass. A story of this matter is given in
"Folktales of Raven".
A Pow-wow (also powwow, pow wow or pau wau) is a gathering of some of North
America's Native People. A similar gathering by California Native Peoples
usually in the fall is called a Big Time. A modern Pow-wow is a specific type of
event for Native American people to meet and dance, sing, socialize, and honor
Native American/First Nations culture. Pow-wows may be private or public. There
is generally a dancing competition, often with significant prize money awarded.
Pow-wows vary in length from a one day event, to major Pow-wows called for a
special occasion which can be up to one week long.
Rabbit see Hare
A crow like bird. Found in American and Canadian folktales. Read about
Reindeer, also known as caribou in North America, is a species of deer native to
arctic, sub-arctic, Tundra etc regions.
This word has been used by Elphinstone Dayrell in his stories collection
"Folk Stories from Southern Nigeria".
Its context shows that it denotes some kind of currency used at that time.
Accordingly the word has been translated in its word meaning - sticks.
Since no adjective is used before this word, one cannot say what kind of
rod was used - wooden, silver, gold, small, large or what?
Death in Guinea, West African country.
plays a prominent role in many Venda tales - the equivalent of Hlakanyana.
Sometimes he is quite small, like tortoise, and sometimes he is big and
strong. All are on their guard against him, however, for Sankhambi is
there is always trouble brewing.
Scandinavian Folktales Characters
A priest or priestess who uses magic for the purpose of curing the sick,
divining the hidden, and controlling events.
Shellfish is a popular name for certain edible mollusks, for example,
oysters, clams, and scallops etc
Siberia is the northernmost part of the world where
Simba Kongway (Lion)
Simba Kongway is the name of a lion in Kenya folktales,
A squirrel like animal who is also very cunning, mostly found in Western America.
He is mostly mentioned in
Hare is a very common character of African folktales. You will find Soongooraa
named hare in Kenya folktales,
Zanzibar (Tanzania) folktales. Like in other folktales this hare is very
intelligent and cunning. His other names are Kalulu, Muundlazana in other
In Hindi it is called Jwaar (or Juaar).
A long tropical grass grown widely for its edible seeds or its sweet juice that
Most dishes of Nigerian lunch and dinner include soup. Some the names of their
soups are - Egusi soup, Okra soup....
South African wolf an jackal stories have their origin in the old Flemish tales
of Reynard the Fox, but over the centuries they have been so acclimatized in
South Africa that they are perceived as being part and parcel of the indigenous
folklore. Read one such story in a Nelson Mandela's book.
Spider is a main character of many African stories, such as from Nigeria, Liberia,
Ghana etc even from southern Africa. In
American Indian folktales also it plays an important role. Tarantula (pronounced
as Taarantoolaa), Nihankan (pronounced as Nihaankan), Sekgogo (in Southern African
folktales), Anansi (in West African tales) are some of their names there.
It is considered very intelligent animal and many animals go to him to solve their
problems. There are many stories related to him.
There is one story of Gizo the he-spider and Koki the she-spider in
Pronounced as Sultaan. Sultan is an Urdu/Arabic word used for King.
Since many people in Africa were Muslim, they used Sultan word to call
their king, so Sultan means king.
Tarantula (pronounced as Taarantoolaa) is a Spider who is also very cunning
like Nihankan Spider. Found in Native American and Canadian folktales.
Tej is a kind of light alcoholic drink made from honey and commonly used in
Tepee is a conical tent traditionally made of animal skins and wooden poles.
Tepee tales are those which are told in these tents. Since they are the type of
living places for American Indians, stories told among them are known as Tepee
Thimble is a little metal cap usually worn by tailors to save their finger tip
from needle pricks.
Tikigaq is a place mentioned in a Raven story. It is the Point Hope - a city in
North Slope Borough, in North-West Alaska, USA. It is a very small village having
an area of 6.5 square miles with a population of 614 in 2010.
A totem is a being, object, or symbol representing an animal or plant that
serves as an emblem of a group of people, such as a family, clan, group,
lineage, or tribe, reminding them of their ancestry or mythic past. In kinship
and descent, if the apical ancestor of a clan is nonhuman, it is called a totem.
Normally this belief is accompanied by a totemic myth.
Totem poles are monumental sculptures carved from large trees, mostly Western
Red Cedar, by cultures of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast
of North America. They are find in abundance in British Columbia of Canada, on
Canada's Western Coast. They are tall wooden poles carved all over with faces
and other things. They are their cultural heritage.
In African folktales, Tortoise is considered a very intelligent and cunning
animal not only in the world of animals but also in the world of people.
Very many tales are found related to tortoise and its intelligence.
Tsar see Czar
Tzar see Czar
In this game two parties pull a rope to their own side. Whoever pulls
the whole rope to one’s side wins the game.
Umdoni berries. Pink-purple fruit up to 1" long with a crisp, crunchy
texture and tart taste. Mostly found in Betty's Bay area of the Western
Cape, South Africa
Wampum are the shell beads indigenous to North American people. This
word is used for their money also which was made of clam-shells.
Yam is a tuber vegetable, again mostly found in tropical areas. In Nigeria
it is found in plenty and is their staple food. This they peel, boil, and
pound to make it like a mashed potato dish of America. It is eaten with
meat soup. Two folktales from Southern Nigeria mention New Yam festivals
Yupik people are a group of indigenous or aboriginal peoples of Western,
South-Western, and South-Central Alaska and the Russian Far East. They
are all Eskimos.
Zooni means a fast runner. Mostly found in