For a while, I've been looking into the story behind the film Kirikou and the Sorceress - a great cartoon, watch it if you ever have the chance. It begins with a tiny boy being born, already able to walk and talk. From there, he sets out to defeat the sorceress who's attacking his village.
I knew the story came from folklore, but all the source material is in French, so it was kind of difficult for me to figure anything out. When I started doing more research into the mytheme of the tiny hero, or thumbling, I came across the story of Fereyel and Debbo Engal the Witch, which has a very similar beginning and plot, although it takes a different path. It took me a while, but I finally came across one source that cited Fereyel as being from the Fula or Fulani people of the Gambia, a long thin country surrounding the Gambia river, right on the coast of West Africa.
So today I went back to Kirikou and was watching the first few minutes. I was reading some of the critics' reviews and noticed that they said the original story was from West Africa. The director Michel Ocelot grew up in Guinea, and heard stories from the Fulani who lived nearby in Senegal. Senegal surrounds Gambia. Jackpot.
A few search points and Google translates of French reviews later, I got to the researcher and writer Amadou Hampâté Bâ, who compiled folktales including the one that inspired Kirikou. It looks like Kirikou came from the story of Njeddo Dewal, mother of calamity, who was defeated by the child Bâgoumawe.
I love finding stuff. Anyway, if you have 75 free minutes, check out Kirikou and the Sorceress. You can find it easily on YouTube. It's slow-paced, and occasionally somewhat surreal, but it's really good.
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Researching folktales and fairies, with a focus on common tale types.