Available on JSTOR at: doi.org/10.2307/3345879

Abstract

Wilton Sankawulo is a Liberian who has written many stories and completed a novel, but his present concern is “to explore the rich tales of Liberia which… reflect the cultural life and thought of the Kpelle people.” In retelling this traditional oral story Sankawulo has created a tale that is both curious and haunting. It is fantasy and yet there are incisive moments of realism in the relationship between husband and wife and the ferocity of the attacking monkey, and a real pathos in the extraordinary moments of the monkey king's death. Sankawulo writes in explanation of his tale: “The Evil Forest is an adaptation of a traditional Kpelle folktale. The tale itself is rather brief and skeletal… it does not begin and end the way it does in this adaptation. In general it purports to inculcate the significance Kpelle people attach to religion… the Kpelle people of Liberia are tradition-bound. Novelty is suspect. What was established of old must be enduring, and therefore it ought to be held in high esteem. In this tale the woman (it could be a man) fights tradition, and as punishment must always follow crime in the Kpelle thought-pattern, she becomes embarrassed. Of course Kpelle folktales are not entirely didactic… many of them are primarily designed for entertainment and are sometimes told by expert storytellers who act them out. I learned this tale from one of them.”