Somali Folk Tales

Somali Folk Tales

somalian storiesParents/Guardians and friends, we have been looking to gather our database of Somali folk tales. Please check the information below to see if it is accurate. Any changes/translations that need to be made it would be appreicated if you could let us know. If you have any Somali Folk tales or myths that you would be willing to share with us, we would be delighted. Thank you. 

Somali Mythology and Folktales

Myth: a traditional story, especially one which explains the early history, a cultural belief, or cultural practice of a group of people.
Folktale:  a story passed on by word of mouth, rather than by writing, and that expresses the traditions of a culture.  The category includes legends, fables, jokes, and fairy tales.  Many folktales involve mythical creatures and magical transformations.
Somalis have a rich oral tradition when it comes to ancient folktales, passing on stories by word of mouth from generation to generation.

  • Tales such as Dhegdheer the cannibal woman were told to little children as a way to teach respect for discipline.  The dreaded Dhegdheer was said to pay a visit at night to all those who had been naughty.  If she was hungry she would eat the children.
  • Coldiid the wise warrior” is another popular Somali folktale with a positive message regarding a waranle (warrior) who avoids all forms of violence. For this abstinence, he is looked down upon by his peers. However, in the end, he manages to show that violence is no way to earn either respect or love.
  • A Lion’s tale is a popular children’s book in the Somali Diaspora wherein two Somali immigrant children struggle to adapt to life in a new environment. They find themselves surrounded by friends that strike them as greedy, only to magically return to Ancient Somalia where they live out all of the popular Somali folktales for themselves. A Lion’s tale has also recently been developed into a school play.

The Lion’s Share – Qayb Libaas

Retold by Said Salah Ahmed, Illustrated by Kelly Dupre. This traditional Somali folktale tells an animal fable about the misuse of power. The animals all work together to kill a camel, but then the lion comes and demands that they give him a share. Although he did none of the work, he ends up with most of the camel, prompting the other animals to say, “The lion’s share is not fair.” The Lion’s Share/Qayb Libaax Reading Guide Book and reading guide also available in Somali. Videos of The Lion’s Share read in English and Somali. Download a PDF copy of The Lion’s Share.

Retold by Marian A. Hassan, Illustrated by Betsy Bowen.
In this hair-raising cautionary tale from Somalia, the Hargega Valley is plagued by the monstrous Dhegdheer, a witch who gobbles up anyone unlucky enough to cross her path. A widow and her young son try to escape her. Will they be Dhegdheer’s next meal or will their virtue save them and help bring an end to Dhegdheer’s reign of terror?
Book and reading guide also available in Somali. Author Marian Hassan and Said Salah Ahmed read and discuss Dhegdheer. Download a PDF copy of Dhegdheer, A Scary Somali Folktale

Wiil Waal: A Somali Folktale

Retold by Kathleen Moriarty, Illustrated by Amin Amir. Somali translation by Jamal Adam.
When a wise Somali leader asks the men in his province to bring him the part of a sheep that best symbolizes what can divide men or unite them as one, most present him with prime cuts of meat. But one very poor man’s daughter has a different idea. In this clever folktale, a father reluctantly follows his daughter’s advice and has astonishing results.
Wiil Waal, A Somali Folktale Reading Guide
Book and reading guide also available in Somali. Kathleen Moriarity, Jamal Adam, and Omar Hersi read and discuss Wiil Waal. Download a PDF copy of Wiil Waal: A Somali Folktale.

The Travels of Igal Shidad – Safarada Cigaal Shidaad

Retold by Kelly Dupre, Illustrated by Amin Amir. Somali translation by Said Salah Ahmed.
The figure of Igal Shidad is a staple in Somali folklore. Like many Somali people, he and his family were nomadic herders of camel and sheep. Thousands of funny stories were told of Igal because even though he was a wise man, he was also known as a coward. Igal’s unreasonable fears caused him much trouble, but with cleverness and faith, he always managed to find solutions to his problems. In this story, Igal walks the drought-stricken Somali landscape, searching for a better home for his family and animals, asking for Allah’s guidance along the way. As he confronts obstacles, both real and imagined, he discovers his prayers can be answered without his even realizing.
Book and reading guide also available in Somali. Videos of The Travels of Igal Shidaad read in English and Somali. Download a PDF copy of The Travels of Igal Shidad – Safarada Cigaal Shidaad.

A selection of Somali Folk Tales (from http://hooyo.web.free.fr/E_tale_00.html)

  1. A doctor for the jungle
  2. A House for two
  3. The three bulls
  4. Igal Chidal and the Enemy
  5. Igal Chidal and the Lion
  6. The Hyena and the Fox
  7. Ina Hagadare
  8. The Bird and the Fire
  9. The Cat and the Mouse
  10. The Power of Education
  11. The Traveler
  12. The Foolish Man and the Thief
  13. The Hyena and the Sheep
  14. Omar and the Hyena
  15. The Fox and the Hyena
  16. The Sheep and the Goat
  17. Two Men who fought
  18. The Elephant and the Squirrel
  19. The King’s Daughter
  20. Osman’s Lesson

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