Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale by John Steptoe

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
32 pages

Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters is an African tale about two daughters named Manyara and Nyasha. The magically evocative story has a moral about the importance of humility and kindness. Nyasha and Manyara are the pride of their father for their beauty and character. Mufaro is unaware that Manyara mistreats her sister Nyasha behind his back. Nyasha doesn't understand why her sister is mean to her and silently accepts Manyara's cruel words in order not to trouble their father. Nyasha is praised by the people of her village for being kind and they believe the crops she tends to in her garden are the most bountiful in the land because of her singing. Nyasha befriends a small garden snake named Nyoka and sings to him.

One day the King announced that he would choose the most worthy and beautiful of woman in the land to be his queen. Mufaro is happy because he knows that either Manyara or Nyasha will be chosen. Manyara did not want to compete with Nyasha and decided to leave her village in the middle of the night ahead of her father's wedding party to reach the King first. Manyara traveled through the forest and met a hungry little boy who asked her for food, but she refused, telling him she only had lunch for herself. Manyara then met an old woman who told her that she would see trees ahead who would laugh at her and that she shouldn't laugh back at the trees. She also said Manyara would meet a man with his head under his arm and to be polite to him. Manyara encountered the laughing trees and the man holding his head and laughed back at the trees while ignoring the head-holding man. Manyara reasoned that she was going to be queen and didn't need to acknowledge those who can't serve her.
In the morning Mufaro's wedding party panicked over Manyara's disappearance and looked all over for her. When they saw her tracks in the forest they figured she must have went to the city before them. Mufaro's party began their journey to the city and along the way Nyasha fed the same hungry boy Manyara refused to give her lunch to and she gave the old woman in the forest a pouch of sunflower seeds. When Mufaro's party reached the city of the King, Nyasha was humbled by its beauty and felt she would be able to leave her village to live there. Mufaro and Nyasha entered the city gates and met a screaming Manyara who warned Nyasha not to enter the King's chamber because there was a five-headed monster in there. She said the monster knew her character faults and was not pleased with her and begged Nyasha not to enter for her safety. Nyasha chose to go ahead and entered the chamber. She was delighted to see Nyoka, her garden snake friend. Nyoka suddenly transformed into the King and told Nyasha that he was also the hungry little boy and the old woman. He said he knew she was the most worthy woman in the land and asked her to be his queen. Nyasha agreed to marry him. Mufaro was happy because his daughter Nyasha was the queen and his daughter Manyara was the queen's servant.