n English in Africa - The representation of orality in , by Phyllis Savory




If questioned about their familiarity with African folk tales, many adult white South Africans would in all likelihood recall reading or hearing such tales as children. More specifically, their recollections of the contents of their childhood bookshelves may well include at least one volume of African folk tales by Phyllis Savory, who has been enormously influential in establishing a particular representation in English of the genre, which is generally considered to be oral. "These Swazi tales have been handed down from generation to generation and represent truly priceless relics of the African continent"; "Children's book, Tales told around the fireside, creatures of the wild, humans who change into animals, a touch of cannibalism, 'collected from the native storytellers, who are the last of their kind'" : indeed, descriptions such as these of two out-of-print titles by Phyllis Savory are sure to resonate with a significant number of white South Africans who owe their acquaintance with African folk tales to this prolific author. Despite the popularity of her titles, however, little appears to have been written on the subject of Phyllis Savory's work, apart from frequent references to the authenticity of the African folk tales she purports to recount. She is credited with having collected stories for over eighty years, drawing on the tales told by the storytellers on her father's farm and listening to missionaries during the course of her travels through Africa (119), and Adey, Beeton, Chapman and Pereira, who briefly discuss her work under the rubric of children's literature, comment that her stories bear evidence of more careful research and objective presentation than the work of her predecessors in the area of interpreting San, Khoi and Bantu legends and folklore (51).


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