In 2006, the Minnesota Humanities Center in collaboration with the Minnesota Somali community launched the Somali Bilingual Book Project. Our shared goal was to ensure the community has high-quality authentic resources that promote and preserve heritage languages and increase English literacy skills of refugee and immigrant families. The project culminated with the publication of four traditional Somali folktales in both English and Somali as well as a dual-language audio recording.
Retold by Said Salah Ahmed
Illustrated by Kelly Dupre.
This traditional Somali folktale tells an animal fable about the misuse of power. The animals all work together to kill a camel, but then the lion comes and demands that they give him a share. Although he did none of the work, he ends up with most of the camel, prompting the other animals to say, “The lion’s share is not fair.”
Retold by Marian A. Hassan
Illustrated by Betsy Bowen.
In this hair-raising cautionary tale from Somalia, the Hargega Valley is plagued by the monstrous Dhegdheer, a witch who gobbles up anyone unlucky enough to cross her path. A widow and her young son try to escape her. Will they be Dhegdheer’s next meal or will their virtue save them and help bring an end to Dhegdheer’s reign of terror?
Retold by Kathleen Moriarty
Somali translation by Jamal Adam
Illustrated by Amin Amir
When a wise Somali leader asks the men in his province to bring him the part of a sheep that best symbolizes what can divide men or unite them as one, most present him with prime cuts of meat. But one very poor man’s daughter has a different idea. In this clever folktale, a father reluctantly follows his daughter’s advice and has astonishing results.
Retold by Kelly Dupre
Somali translation by Said Salah Ahmed
Illustrated by Amin Amir
The figure of Igal Shidad is a staple in Somali folklore. Like many Somali people, he and his family were nomadic herders of camel and sheep. Thousands of funny stories were told of Igal because even though he was a wise man, he was also known as a coward. Igal’s unreasonable fears caused him much trouble, but with cleverness and faith, he always managed to find solutions to his problems. In this story, Igal walks the drought-stricken Somali landscape, searching for a better home for his family and animals, asking for Allah’s guidance along the way. As he confronts obstacles, both real and imagined, he discovers his prayers can be answered without his even realizing.