Form and Content
The King’s Drum and Other African Stories is one of many collections of traditional folk material from around the world by Harold Courlander. The stories in this volume are widely varied, as the author himself notes; he presents tales about human and animal tricksters, heroes and pseudo-heroes, conflicts and dilemmas that deal either humorously or seriously with human foibles and proverbial wisdom. None of the twenty-nine tales is more than a few pages long, in a small-page format. They are simply written and they are not sequential, so they can be read singly or in any combination. Seven of the tales feature animal characters rather than human ones. Seventeen pen-and-ink illustrations by Enrico Arno provide whimsy and an exotic flavor.
Seen in terms of their effect, the stories may be divided into three broad categories: explanations of nature, social or moral lessons, and purely humorous narratives. In the first category are tales that explain natural phenomena and the physical makeup or natural actions of animals. “The Message from the Moon,” for example, explains the origin of death among human beings and also explains the hare’s split lip. In “Why the Chameleon Shakes His Head,” the chameleon hears the dog explain his partnership in hunting with the man and then witnesses how the man actually treats the dog after they have hunted together. The chameleon is shocked and since then has avoided all human beings. Now, whenever people...
(The entire section is 484 words.)