Congo Life and Folklore. Part I. Life on the Congo. Part II. Thirty- three Native Stories. By the Rev. John H. Weeks. ReHgious Tract Society, 191 1. 8vo, pp. xxiii + 468. 111.
Mr. Weeks, who is already well known to readers of Folk-Lore by his careful and graphic records from the Congo, gives in the first part of this freely illustrated volume a general account of Lower Congo beliefs and practices strung upon a thread of the adventures of one of the brass rods used as currency. In its course he tells stories, repeats proverbs and riddles, — and very curious riddles they are !, — and explains games, customs, and etiquette, — accord- ing to which loincloths may be used as table napkins, but the mouth and hands are washed carefully before every meal.
Much of our information about savage peoples must be acquired from the enthusiasm of travellers who have spent too short a time amongst those peoples to understand all they see, to speak the native tongue, or, longest task of all, to gain the natives' confidence. Those who have lived long in a strange country often lose their interest in matters become familiar to them, and only yield knowledge, if they still possess it, as the result of persistent cross-examination. Mr. Weeks has kept his early interest, and has added to it ripened experience and sympathy. The stringing together of his material is much more successful than most attempts of the kind, and his mode of presenting Congo folklore in action, instead of in a catalogue, lends much vividness to it.
The most novel matter in the book is the collection of 41 tales, of which eight appear in the first part, and which are an important addition to the small number previously recorded for the Lower Congo. Three-quarters of them are animal fables, the most familiar West African tale represented here being that of the trickster who challenges two much more powerful animals and cheats them into pulling against each other, — the trio here being the sparrow, elephant, and crocodile (pp. 39-42). The fox as arbiter, and the snake and frog as disputants, meet in a version (pp. 77-81) of the widely diffused tale in which an ungrateful animal is tricked into returning into the trap from which he has