Today we’re looking at the youngest collection of tales that I’ve come across so far: Pearls on a Branch: Oral Tales by Najla Jraissaty Koury, translated by Inea Bushnaq.

As with some other collections, it is unclear which stories originally had Palestinian tellers. The tales were gathered via a traveling theatre troup who toured Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon among other places. No mention is made of the source for each story, although I do recognize a number of tales found in older collections of Palestinian tales (ex. the Green Bird, the Mouse that Wanted a Husband). Apparently the translation comes from a transcription of audio recordings–some 100 in all, although 30 tales are presented in this collection. The Arabic original was published in 2014.

Unlike nearly all of the collections I’ve come across, Pearls on a Branch replicates the formal style of Arabic storytelling, which includes a special poetic prologue called a ‘mattress.’ The editor notes it is ‘a long stretch of fantasy and nonsense rhyme’ named for the soft bedding that would be rolled out.

THE FARSHEH

An old woman,
Who looks like a hag
With grey hairs that sag
And a comb in her bag,
Walks with a limp and a hop
Till she comes to a grocer’s shop.
“Young man, what is your name?
You set my heart aflame.”
Says the young man:
“They call me Taktakan.”

Contents

  • The Farsheh
  • Ahaa
  • Abu Ali the Fox
  • The Sun Her Mother the Moon Her Father
  • A House Without Worries
  • The Prince and the Goatherd
  • Lady Tanaqeesh and the Eggs of the Tawawees
  • The Olive Pit
  • The Fly
  • Pearls on a Branch
  • Two Sisters
  • I Palace Beautiful! O Fancy Friend!
  • Who Ate the Wheat?
  • The Vegetable-Seller’s Daughter
  • A Cow Called Joukha
  • The Girl Who Had No Name
  • The Frog and His Wife
  • Jubayna the Fair
  • Baldhead in the Garden
  • King Solomon and the Queen of Birds
  • Sitt Yadab
  • Bir Brambir
  • The Green Bird
  • The Singing Turd
  • The Mouse that Wanted a Husband
  • The Drinking Fountain
  • Thuraya with the Long, Long Hair
  • When Queen Mother Died
  • The Nightingale that Speaks
  • The Day it Rained Dumplings

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