WHY GOATS SMELL BAD
Translated and retold
AND OTHER STORIES FROM BENIN
by Imna Arroyo
North Haven, Connecticut.
Linnet Books, 1997
School Library Journal.
A fascinating collection of 20 traditional folktales that makes the Fon culture
of Benin come alive. According to Mama, a native speaker of Fon, this is the first time
many of these tales have been translated and retold in English. The brief stories are well
suited for sharing or reading aloud. They are grouped in four broad categories: 'Orphans,
Twins, and Other Children,' 'Cautionary Tales and Spirit Stories,' 'Pourquoi Tales and
Animal Wisdom,' and 'Trickster Tales: Yogbo the Glutton.' While the selections evoke
the cultural values of the Fon people, the structure of some of them will be familiar to
many readers. For example, 'The Prince and the Orphan,' with its beautiful protagonist,
her cruel stepsisters, and handsome prince, is a variant of the Cinderella tale-type. Mama
provides an excellent overview of Benin culture and folklore in his introduction, and
includes brief notes for each story that explain background information, known variants,
and mention of any alterations he has made to the oral tale. Stylized woodcuts appear at
the beginning of each grouping of tales. Although the stories stand well on their own, the
pictures help place them within the context of their culture. Overall, this is an important
contribution to folklore scholarship.