Folk- and Fairy Tales around slaves and slavery

International Day of Remembrance of Slavery Victims and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

The United Nations’ (UN) International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade is on March 25 each year. It honors the lives of those who died as a result of slavery or experienced the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade. It is also an occasion to raise awareness about the dangers of racism and prejudice.[1]

While usually kings, queens and princes, sages and witches, animals, spirits and ghosts are the most famous characters in folk- and fairy tales, slaves are also a part of many folk tales.   

To do our part for to the rememberance of the horrible practice of slavery, we searched our archives for the most interessting stories that contain the description of slaves or slavery. Rarely do slaves pose as the main characters, therefore we did also included stories that just touch on the topic of slavery.

Conducting our search we quickly realized that a common perception in the west, that wide-spread slavery started with the transatlantic slave trade, doesn’t seem to hold true. While the commercialization certainly reached unprecedented levels during that period, slavery was know to many cultures for hundreds or rather thousands of years. Gladly, in most places around the world, slavery is a thing of the past.  

While usually collects stories in the form of “top lists“, we find it hard to call anything about this topic a top list. As mentioned before, slavery was practiced in many parts of the world. We tried to reflect this in the selection of our stories. Therefore, without further ado, we present a mere collection of folk- and fairy tales containing descriptions of slaves and slavery:

In HOW THE HARE DECEIVED THE TIGER (SHAN FOLK LORE STORIES, 1902) BY WILLIAM C. GRIGGS the hare pretends to be the tigers slave, but works out a plan to deceive hime.

A LAUNG KHIT (SHAN FOLK LORE STORIES, 1902) BY WILLIAM C. GRIGGS features a race with very special conditions. The one who reached the winning post first and carried away the flag on its rattan pole was to be king in his room, and the one who came in last was to be slave to the fortunate one.

In How Night Came (Fairy Tales from Brazil, 1917) by Elsie Spicer Eells three faithless slaves disobay their master and get turned into monkeys as a punishment. 

Concerning the Woman, the Ape, and the Child (FOLK STORIES FROM SOUTHERN NIGERIA WEST AFRICA, 1910) BY ELPHINSTONE DAYRELL is a story about a slave marrying another master’s slave. This inevitably led to trouble.

THE MAD GOOSE AND THE TIGER FOREST (A CHINESE WONDER BOOK) BY NORMAN HINSDALE PITMAN is a story about Hu-Lin a little slave girl that was sold by her father when she was very young. This is probably one of the most beautiful stories we have found on the topic … and it has got a happy ending.

In THE LAUGHING HIPPOPOTAMUS (American Fairy Tales) By L. FRANK BAUM Keo, the hippopotamus, is caught and turned into a slave. In a twist of events, he turns the tables on his captor. 

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