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Glossary of West African Folktale Terms

Here you will find description of terms you may encounter in some of our African folktales.


Yoruba word for bean cakes, a local dish made from deep fried peeled, ground beans.


A bowl carved out from the fruit (gourd) of the calabash tree. In traditional Africa, food and drinks were served in these bowls. They were also used as containers for numerous items.


The Yoruba word for tortoise. Ijapa in West African folktales is an extremely cunning animal and regularly outwits stronger, faster, bigger animals. Very often his trickery works against him and he receives his due punishment but at other times, he gets away with it proving that brain is better than brawn.

Palm Wine

Wine tapped from a palm tree. It is sweet and mild when freshly tapped but becomes intoxicating as it matures.


Not your typical western porridge, the one referred to in these folktales is of West African origin and is called ebe or asaro in Yoruba. It is made from boiled and partially mashed yams cooked in palm oil.


She is Ijapa's wife and to the best of this narrators knowledge, she does not share Ijapa's cunning character. She appears to simply be a witness of his exploits. Perhaps she was one of the members of Ijapa's family who helped him win his race against the hare, in which case we can infer she was cunning too.
Last updated: 22 April 2006 2006 - 2009
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