Long before children heard Mother Goose rhymes or “Jack and the Beanstalk,” stories were told in Africa about wise lions, wily snakes and how the world began. Storytellers passed along these tales orally, embodying ideas about ethics, human nature and the cultures from which they came.

Unlike collections of European fairy tales, myths and legends, which are familiar worldwide, compilations of African folk tales have only recently received mainstream attention outside Africa.

Why mosquitoes buzz in people’s ears
If you live in the rain forest climates of West Africa, you will be very familiar with the buzz of the mosquito in your ears on hot humid evenings. Even if there’s only one mosquito and only one person in an area as large as a football field, the mosquito always seems to find that person’s ear and buzz in it. If you’ve slapped yourself in the face because of a mosquito, you know what I’m talking about. Here’s the story that explains the mosquito’s attraction to the ear.

A very long time ago when Ear was a beautiful woman and ready for marriage, there were several suitors wooing her. There were big creatures, there were small creatures. There were fast and sleek creatures and there were slow ones. But they all professed their love for Ear and demonstrated their skills – and there was such an impressive array of skills that Ear had a difficult time making a decision. Then along came mosquito.

“I would like you to be my wife”, proposed Mosquito.

Ear was so offended by this affront. “Look around you!” she cried. “Of all the people and creatures in the whole world, what makes you think I can entertain such a thought?” Ear was distressed. “Marry you?!!” she continued. “You will be dead before the week is over. You’re not strong, you’re weak and I will never marry you!”

Ear was exhausted from this tirade and she fell into her seat, fanning herself vigorously like she was trying to get any image of Mosquito out of her head. Meanwhile, Mosquito was really hurt by all that Ear said. It was very embarrassing to be talked to like that in front of all the other creatures who were whispering to each other and giggling. Apparently, they all agreed with Ear. “Dead before the week is over,” thought Mosquito as he slunk away. “We’ll see about that.”

And from that day forward, whenever Mosquito sees Ear, he flies up to her and says “Emi re, mi o ti ku”, which in English means “Here I am, I am not dead.”

But who did Mosquito eventually marry? And how did she get attached to either side of Head? That’s another story I would like to hear.

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