Somali Bilingual Book Project

Somali Bilingual Book Project

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.

“The Lion’s Share - Qayb Libaax”

“The Lion’s Share - Qayb Libaax”

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.”

“Dhegdheer: A Scary Somali Folktale”

“Dhegdheer: A Scary Somali Folktale”

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?

“Wiil Waal: A Somali Folktale”

“Wiil Waal: A Somali Folktale”

Retold by Kathleen Moriarty
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.

“The Travels of Igal Shidad - Safarada Cigaal Shidaad”

“The Travels of Igal Shidad - Safarada Cigaal Shidaad”

Retold by Kelly Dupre
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.