The Cow-Tail Switch and Other West African Stories

Cover Art from:
Cover Art from:

Courlander, H., & Herzog, G. (1987). The cow-tail switch, and other West African stories. New York, NY: H. Holt and.

ISBN: 9780805002980

This book is a great collection of West African folk tales. The book is for readers age 8-12 according to Barnes and Nobel which seems like a reasonable suggestion. The book features eighteen stories along with notes about the stories and pronunciation guide and glossary section. I really enjoyed the selection of stories as it combined several different types of stories including morality tales like Kaddo’s Wall a story about a rich man who built a wall made of flour around his home who had a change of fortune and was forced to eat his wall to survive and then beg from his neighbors to start his life over showing the importance of humility and planning ahead. The book also features stories that explain natural phenomenons like The One You Don’t See Coming a story about sleep. There are also animal stories like Hungry Spider and the Turtle a story about a greedy spider that tricks the turtle out of a meal and how the turtle later returns the favor. My favorite story in the book is Talk which is about a farmer who has a whole lot of trouble when he goes to harvest his neglected crops and his yam tells him to go away. Soon things all over his farm are weighing in on the situation so he flees to go tell the chief what is happening. On the way he meets a fisherman and tells him the whole story at which point his trap asks the farmer a question. The fisher then joins the farmer on his journey and they have the same problems when relaying their tale to a weaver and a man bathing in the river. Finally all four men make it to the chief and tell him their tale he doesn’t believe them and sends them all back to work. After the men have left the chief’s stool comments about how fantastic the tale of the talking yam was. I first heard this tale as a young child and loved it, which in turn lead me to this book when i was in the sixth grade. I think this is a great collection of stories and would be a great addition to a book list or display about folk tales.

The Cow-Tail Switch and Other West African Stories

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