The best books of folktales from Africa

Why am I passionate about this?

Once upon a time, I didn’t know any stories from Africa. I found one, and it stirred me to my core. I found others and read them to my children. These were oral stories that had been trapped between the covers of books. One day, I discovered the oral tradition – stories told as they were originally heard. They had been liberated from the page and flew into my heart. A storyteller was born in me. I went on my own journey to collect stories in Ghana. I now tell stories from traditions around the world.


I wrote...

Voices of the Ancestors: Stories & Lore From Ghana’s Volta Region

By Gail Nyoka,

Book cover of Voices of the Ancestors: Stories & Lore From Ghana’s Volta Region

What is my book about?

The Ewe elders of Ghana see their traditional stories slipping away. Some are retold here: sometimes serious, sometimes humorous, sometimes featuring animal characters with all-too-human foibles. The elders were delighted to pass on their stories, some of which had been almost forgotten. These include origin myths, lore from fishing villages, and the words of a voodoo priestess.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Stories of Africa

Gail Nyoka Why did I love this book?

This wonderful South African storyteller enchanted me when I heard her telling stories at the Toronto Storytelling Festival. I loved the empowering story, "Khethiwe, Queen of the Imbira", about a girl who defiantly plays an instrument claimed as the exclusive purview of men. Another is the story of a woman who must go to the depths of the ocean to bring the magic of stories to the world. These, with eight other beautifully told tales, are included in a colourfully illustrated book.

By Gcina Mhlophe,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stories of Africa as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This folklore story collection offers a feast of enjoyment for young South African readers. Ten enchanting tales, steeped in the imaginative richness of African storytelling: Where did the first stories in the world come from? How did little Tortoise win the respect of all the other animals? Who was Nanana Bo Sele Sele and what happened when she built her house in the middle of the animals' road? Why was young Crocodile so determined to get hold of Monkey's heart? Told with inimitable aplomb by South Africa's most popular performance storyteller and illustrated by a lively selection of KwaZulu-Natal artistic…


Book cover of The Orphan Boy

Gail Nyoka Why did I love this book?

I found this book moving. On one level it is the mythology of the planet we know as Venus, from the perspective of the Maasai people. On another level it speaks to the condition of age and loneliness. And I love the illustrations, which take the reader into the landscape of East Africa and show us the humanity of the old man. Like all the best tales, it can be enjoyed by both children and adults.

By Tololwa M. Mollel, Paul Morin (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Orphan Boy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Seaching the sky for a familiar star, an old man encounters a mysterious boy, Kileken. As he comes to love the boy as a son, he agrees to let him keep the one thing he owns: a secret.


Book cover of The Hero with an African Face: Mythic Wisdom of Traditional Africa

Gail Nyoka Why did I love this book?

This book features some epic stories from Africa. Not all the stories are given in their entirety, but there is enough to give a good picture of what transpires in tales that would traditionally be told over several evenings. Ford presents an analysis of some African tales not usually found in collections, and I enjoyed this deep dive into the meanings hidden in the stories.

By Clyde W. Ford,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Hero with an African Face as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this remarkable book, Clyde Ford restores to us the lost treasure of African mythology, bringing to life the ancient tales and showing why they matter so much to us today.African myths convey the perennial wisdom of humanity: the creation of the world, the hero's journey, our relationship with nature, death, and resurrection. From the Ashanti comes the moving account of the grief-stricken Kwasi Benefo's journey to the underworld to seek his beloved wives. From Uganda we learn of the legendary Kintu, who won the love of a goddess and created a nation from a handful of isolated clans. The…


Book cover of Tales of Yoruba Gods & Heroes

Gail Nyoka Why did I love this book?

This is a classic by the late folklorist, Harold Courlander. If you want to get a basic understanding of the stories that make up the Orishas of Yoruba mythological tradition, this is the go-to book. Here is the story of how the Orishas come to earth, and the powers and power struggles of the Yoruba pantheon. Appendices give a quick overview of Orishas in Cuba and the Americas.

By Harold Courlander,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tales of Yoruba Gods & Heroes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A fascinating collection of the oral literature of an ancient people. This book is an important and delightful contribution to mythology, folklore, history, African culture and black studies. Included in the appendix are some Yoruba songs and tales known among African-Americans communites in the West Indies and Brazil.


Book cover of A Treasury of African Folklore

Gail Nyoka Why did I love this book?

When it comes to oral literature from the African continent, I haven’t seen another collection that matches this in-depth and breadth. Here you will find a fuller version of one of the Soninke epics discussed in the book by Clyde W. Ford. Here are the stories of the Akan, and many other African peoples. I particularly enjoyed the sayings and humorous anecdotes.

By Harold Courlander,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Treasury of African Folklore as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A large, distinctive collection of tales, traditions, lore, legends, folk wisdom, and poetry captures the oral heritage of the peoples of Africa, including the Hause, Kanuri, Ashanti, Mbundu, Zulu, Hottentot, and Mensa tribes. Reprint. PW. IP.


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Ballad for Jasmine Town

By Molly Ringle,

Book cover of Ballad for Jasmine Town

Molly Ringle Author Of Sage and King

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Novelist Editor Sociolinguist HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) Good witch

Molly's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

A human child raised by the fae is an uncommon thing. But Rafi was such a child.

Now grown, half-fae but mortal, he lingers on the edge of human society in Miryoku, a nearby town sharing a border with fae territory. He doesn’t want to join the human world properly; he just wants to play music with a local cover band and avoid the cruelest members of his fae family.

Then, he meets Roxana, and his world shifts. She’s a human metalworking witch, up for a friendly fling with Rafi before she and her twelve-year-old daughter move away from Miryoku…

Ballad for Jasmine Town

By Molly Ringle,

What is this book about?

A law-abiding metalworking witch and a form-shifting half-fae musician embark on a secret romance, but soon become caught in escalating tensions between fae and humans that threaten their hometown. The second story after the popular Lava Red Feather Blue comes alive in Ballad for Jasmine Town.

The town of Miryoku has ocean views, fragrant jasmine vines, and a thriving arts scene, including a popular nineties cover band. It also sits on the verge, sharing a border with fae territory, a realm of both enchantments and dangers.

Rafi has been unusual all his life: a human born to a fae mother,…


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