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How to Read a Folktale

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

Translation and Reader’s Guide by Lee Haring
Volume: 4
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Open Book Publishers
Pages: 163
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  • Book Info
    How to Read a Folktale
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-1-909254-07-7
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. Foreword to Ibonia
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
    Mark Turin

    Two decades after it was first published, a powerful oral epic from Madagascar is once again available to a global readership, in print and online.How to Read a Folktale: The Ibonia Epic from Madagascaris the story of a story; a compelling Malagasy tale of love and power, brought to life by Lee Haring.

    Throughout this carefully updated text, Haring is our expert guide and witness. He provides helpful historical background and deep exegesis; but he also encourages us to letIboniastand alone — deserving of attention in its own right — a rich example of epic oral...

  4. Preface
    (pp. [ix]-[x])
  5. 1. Introduction: What Ibonia is and How to Read it
    (pp. 1-2)

    I introduce to you a longish story containing adventures, self-praise, insults, jokes, heroic challenges, love scenes, and poetry. Here I answer two questions: “What is it?” and “How do I read it?” You might decide it is a love story featuring the hero’s search and struggle for a wife, or a wondertale emphasising supernatural belief and prophecy, or a defence of conjugal fidelity, or an agglomeration of psychoanalytic symbols, or a symbolic exposition of the political ideology of a group of people you do not know anything about. You would be right every time.

    One way of interpretingIbonia,perhaps...

  6. 2. How to Read Ibonia: Folkloric Restatement
    (pp. 3-4)

    How shall a text so foreign be read, understood, or appreciated? I discovered one path in the library of what was then called the Université de Madagascar, where I was a visiting professor in 1975–1976. On the shelves I found, unexpectedly, quantities of available, published knowledge about Malagasy folklore. The university library and national library held scores of texts, unanalysed, uninterpreted. These called out to me. Faced by so many tales, riddles, proverbs, beliefs, customs, so much folklore to think about, I devised a way of reading the pieces. I decided to read the poems and stories, and even...

  7. 3. What it is: Texts, Plural
    (pp. 5-20)

    What is a “text”? A set of words printed on paper. The text translated here is forty-six pages from a book 6 1/2 by 4 1/4 inches, published in Madagascar in 1877.⁴ The pages have sentences that begin with capital letters and end with periods; it has paragraphs. It also has those long Malagasy names, which are more pronounceable than they look.⁵ Those long names are constructed out of short elements, each of which means something. Take Andrianampoinimerina, the great king of the Merina ethnic group at the beginning of the nineteenth century. His name is simple:Andriana[prince],am-po...

  8. 4. Texture and Structure: How it is Made
    (pp. 21-36)

    Texture asks about the presented surface of a work — its words, sounds, images; its component parts; its style. Structure asks how the parts fit together to create a whole. Texture and style inIboniaare certainly mixed. If you read Dahle’s printed text carefully, you see rhythmic, measured lines; the narrator is relying on these to move the story ahead.

    In dialogue he includes even more rhythm and measure, coming closer to verse. Towards the end he switches into the kind of prose other Malagasy narrators use for folktales. The mixing of styles, which shows in the translation, was...

  9. 5. Context, History, Interpretation
    (pp. 37-56)

    Translation givesIboniaa new audience, which means a new context; it “re-contextualises” the epic. Context is basically of two kinds, social and cultural. A social context is needed for any performance. As Bauman says: “I understand performance as a mode of communication, a way of speaking, the essence of which resides in the assumption of responsibility to an audience for a display of communicative skill …” (Story 3). Context of social situation is “the narrowest, most direct context for speaking folklore” (Ben-Amos 216). It entails a kind of microscopic study of oral performance that is available only to scholars...

  10. 6. IBONAMASIBONIAMANORO He of the Clear and Captivating Glance
    (pp. 57-116)
  11. Appendix: Versions and Variants
    (pp. 117-140)
  12. Works Cited
    (pp. 141-148)
  13. Index
    (pp. 149-152)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 153-154)