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Ethiopian Stories in Simplified English
Management Development Project

MBA Project

Multipurpose Community Telecentre Project



With its ancient history and culture, its position on the crossroads between Africa and the Middle East, and its rich patchwork of landscapes, languages, religions and peoples, Ethiopia possesses an amazing treasury of folk stories. Some of these have never been translated out of their original languages, and many have never been written down. It was in an attempt to capture and harness some part of this fabulous resource (before it is lost, like so much other oral literature with the advance of modernity), and make it available in the teaching of English, that the Ethiopian simplified story project was set up in 1997.

The scope of the project

Given the great cultural and linguistic diversity of Ethiopia, the aim of the project is to produce two readers for each of the main regions, making a final total of eighteen. So far, nine readers have been published, and the other nine are in various stages of production.

The Good Wife a story from Afar

There is only one story in this book, a long and episodic tale of great richness and complexity which reflects many aspects of traditional Afar culture, including their love of riddles and word play.

The King of the Forest and other stories from Afar

There's a strong flavour of Afar culture in this collection of stories, with the brave warriors in the forest, and the hunter and his bride. There are classic animal fables here too, including the favourite old tale of the bull who gave birth to a calf.

Sunrise and Sunset and other stories from Gambella

Stories originally told to the author in the Nuer, Anuak and Opo languages make up this collection, which includes a legend about the arrival of the first king of the Anuak, and a rich and complex Nuer story of two sisters.

The First Gift and other stories from Gambella

This collection includes a Majangir and a Komo tale alongside more stories from the Nuer and Anuak peoples. The First Gift, the story which gives its title to the book, is uncannily reminiscent of the story of Jacob and Esau in the Bible and is no doubt of similar antiquity.

Fine Red Feathers and other stories from Oromiya

Traditional values of honesty, fairness, peacemaking and friendship are illustrated in this mixture of animal fables and human tales, as well as stories warning of treachery and ingratitude.

The Rat King's Son and other stories from Oromiya

The animal stories in this collection are rich in folk wisdom, dealing with very human subjects such as pride and modesty, gratitude and the defeat of tyranny. There are human stories here too, and a touch of magic when a wicked wizard is defeated by the cleverness of two little girls.

The Magic Stick and other stories from Amhara

Both stories in this collection are rich in human wisdom, one illustrating in an amusing tale the importance of contentment with one’s lot in life, and the other being a cautionary tale about the age-old, harmful belief in the evil eye.

The Unwise Judge and other stories from Amhara

Fairness between neighbours, warnings to children and respect for parents make up the themes of some of these stories, while the collection ends with a delightful popular tale about a tiny boy outwitting his powerful older brothers.

The Clever Woman and other stories from Tigray

Rich men and poor, wise and foolish, monks and ogres, alongside clever monkeys and tricky foxes all make their appearance in this book, which captures the atmosphere of Old Tigray.

Titles in production
  • The Bird and the Elephant and other stories from Tigray
  • The Honey Hunters and other stories from Beni Shangul
  • The Baboon Child and other stories from Beni Shangul
  • The Holy Man and the Guava and other stories from Harar

A further collection from Harar and two longer collections from the Southern People’s Region are to follow.

Future Plans

At present, the books have been donated to the regions from which the stories originated and have not been available to other readers. There are plans now to make this unique body of material more widely available, both in commercial sales to the public in Ethiopia, and through adaptation in different formats and media.

For further information about readers, please contact:

Head, English Language Services : Dr. Solomon Hailu
Adwa Avenue, Artistic Building
PO Box 1043
Addis Ababa
Telephone 251-1-55 00 22
Fax: 251-1-55 25 44

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