The Muse’s Fables: The Fondom of Ufasino Collection by Rachel Nkyete Nyambi

The Muses's Fables

Reviewed by Ronnie Alvarado

Many children are raised by the morals of fairy tales. The Brothers Grimm, Hans Christen Andersen, and Aesop all imbued their tales with lessons that stress virtues such as kindness, loyalty, and forgiveness. Rachel Nkyete Nyambi’s short collection The Muses’s Fables aims to achieve the same purpose as her fable forebears through her crafting of a handful of tales, each set in the mythical fondom (kingdom) of Ufasino, that stress the value of a specific virtue.

Many of these tales sparkle not only for the their moral basis, but also for their crafty and innovative twists on the popular fable. The second story, entitled “Khola, the Graceful Antelope,” shows its readers the consequence of disobedience. Khola is a beautiful antelope whose ability to leap has no equal among her herd. But Khola’s downfall is her constant craving of sweet corn, a crop that is planted by humans not only for nourishment, but also to ensnare unwary animals. Although Khola’s mother and father repeatedly warn her to stay away from the cornfield, Khola disregards their entreaties, and wanders through the field on a regular basis. One day while doing this, she disappears and is never heard from again. This fable resonates with the reader not only for is simplistic, yet beautiful prose, but also for its clear and vital lesson.

The longest and most memorable fable of the collection is “Kagiso, The Princess Bride.” Kagiso is the princess of the just King of Ufansino and is of marriageable age. A good father, the King has decided to let Kagiso chose her future husband. Kagiso gives three criteria seemingly impossible criteria that her life’s companion must meet. First, he should be able to build a house overnight, without any assistance by other humans. Second, he must be able to pierce the trunk of a cypress tree in only try. And finally, he must be able to identify the flower that the princess likes best in a vast garden. Many wealthy princes from distant kingdoms desire to marry Kagiso, but fail to complete even one of the tasks. One day, however, the kind and goodhearted village worker Balondemu selflessly assists a colony of bees, a hungry woodpecker, and lonely butterfly. Each of the animals repay him by giving him the tools and skills that he requires in order to successfully complete the princess’s tasks. Kagiso and Balondemu marry soon after, and this Cinderella-esque tale thus demonstrates the true rewards that can come to those who are kind and generous.

The Muse’s Fables is a short, but pleasant read. The fables themselves are brief, and as the author states in her introduction, are easily consumed in small chunks, allowing for a quick diversion from the humdrums of everyday life. Accessible to all ages, The Muse’s Fables is ultimately a good choice for anyone looking for an alternative to the better-known Western fairytales.

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