African-American folktales are probably the most relevant tales to modern society that I have read yet. They capture the familiar (but unfortunate) Zeitgeist of oppression in America that applies beyond race, especially in the twenty-first century. Specifically, the story of “How Mr. Crocodile Got His Rough Back” has a general and powerful message about taking control of your life, and not allowing yourself to feel oppressed just because someone thinks they are superior. Although the tale may originate from Africa and was intended for the “children of the sun”, it nurtures the collective unconscious idea of inferiority for children – regardless of background.
Modern oppression goes beyond race. There is always an oppressor - anyone can feel unworthy.
Furthermore, the African roots of folk and fairy tales with the all-knowing griots are a new concept in my knowledge of fairy tales. The most recent episode of Doctor Who (“The Rings of Akhaten”) actually introduced character acting in a similar role – the “Queen of Ages” – passed down to her by her family. She knew the history of her planet, every song, every story, and had to recite them for her community to ensure proper balance in her world.
Mary [center], the "Queen of Ages", in Doctor Who s.7 e.7 "The Rings of Akhaten"
Since most languages in Africa were not handwritten or recorded, many stories and tales rely on the oral tradition and have maintained their simple quality for easy memorization and recitation. While European and some Eastern cultures were capturing a solid rendition of a tale on paper to never change again, African stories continued to evolve (and still do) until reaching America, where they are altered for the audience and recorded, frozen in time.