This book is divided into two parts: a Bibliography of books containing traditional African stories — folktales, epics, legends, and more — that you can find at the Internet Archive, plus an Anthology of traditional African stories reprinted from public domain sources (i.e. books published before 1927). I hope that these books and these stories will be useful for learners of all ages who want to find out more about traditional stories and storytellers from Africa.
In choosing the 200 entries for the Bibliography, I tried to cover a wide range of materials. You will find beautifully illustrated children’s books as well as monumental works of academic scholarship, each contributing in its own way to documenting the storytelling traditions of Africa. Some entries feature one book only, while others feature several related books. The most important thing is that all these hundreds of books are just a click away online, instantly available to you at the Internet Archive. So, when you see a book that interests you, you can just click and start reading!
For the main book in each entry, I’ve included the Internet Archive address of the book, and that archive.org address is a link you can click on. There are often related book titles in an entry, and those titles are also links to the Internet Archive that you can click on. I included the URLs just in case someone is reading the print version of the book without links; you can always type the address into your web browser to access the book or search for the book using the Internet Archive’s search features. Even better, though, would be to download your own free digital copy of this book so that you can click on the links. You can download the free digital copy (PDF or epub) here: Bibliography.LauraGibbs.net.
The 200 book entries are organized alphabetically by the authors’ last names. In each entry, I’ve tried to provide some background information about the authors and the illustrators so that they will be more than just names on a page. When I could find a Wikipedia article about an author or artist, I included a link to Wikipedia too. So, if you see a linked book title, that link goes to the Internet Archive, but if you see a linked name, that link goes to Wikipedia.
In addition, after each entry you will find suggestions for more books: more books from that same region of Africa, more books in that same genre, more books by the same author or illustrated by the same artist, etc. So, you can read through the entries in order, or you can create your own trail through the entries by following your own interests.
Some of the books included here are in the public domain, which means they are available for you to read online and even to download without any restrictions. Most of the books, however, are copyrighted works that are available via a system called “Controlled Digital Lending” — in other words, you can check out digital books for a fixed period of time from the Internet Archive just as you would check out a physical book from a physical library. After you create your free account, you can check out books for an hour at a time (sometimes longer), and you can check out the same book repeatedly, provided that nobody else is waiting to read it.
There are literally millions of books available for digital borrowing at the Internet Archive, with new books being added all the time. For more African books, and also books from the African Diaspora, you can visit my blog, Laura’s Bookshelf, where I write about new books every day. Here’s the address:
You will find 50 different African folktales in the Anthology portion of this book, many with illustrations. I hope that by browsing the stories in the Anthology you will get a sense of the kinds of stories that you like most. Maybe it will be the fairy tales, or perhaps the animal stories, or you might be curious about the stories that include songs and music.
Each story in the Anthology comes from a book that you can find in the Bibliography. So, when you discover a story that you like, you can instantly access that book at the Internet Archive and read more stories. You can also use the Bibliography to find related books, including more recent publications, which is something I would urge you to do. Thanks to the resources of the Internet Archive, you can go beyond the public domain books of a century ago to explore more contemporary books, especially books by African and African American authors.
And here’s another thought: you too can use the old public domain books to create your own anthologies. Perhaps you are a teacher who wants to create a textbook for your students, or maybe you are a parent who wants to create a book for your children (or grandchildren or nieces or nephews), or you might be an artist who wants to create new illustrations for these old stories. That is all possible with public domain books at the Internet Archive and also at other public domain projects like Project Gutenberg at Gutenberg.org and LibriVox.org, a public domain audiobook project. It’s easy to publish and even print your own books using a service like Pressbooks, which is the service I used to create this book; you can find out more at Pressbooks.com.
Meanwhile, thousands and thousands of African stories await you online. I hope this book will inspire you to explore widely, read lots of stories, and then share your favorite stories with others. That’s how the stories stay alive, thanks to each and every storyteller.