Rockwell, Anne. When the Drum Sang: An African Folktale. New York: Parent's Magazine Press, 1970.
Ethnic Origin: This particular story has its origins from the Bantu people of southern-central Africa.
Running Time: About 12 minutes.
Power Centers: I found this story to have three emotional power centers. The first occurs when the voracious appetite and ungenerous nature of the Zimwe is revealed in the first village. His character development is completed here. Next when Tselane sings her melancholy songs before her parents, the true nature of her plight and her parents' anguish is revealed. Finally, Zimwe is driven away and finally Tselane sings freely once again. I found this story to be very emotional and these three areas focused on the emotional qualities of the characters. They were defining moments.
Characters: Young Tselane; mean Zimwe; Tselane's parents; and a plethora of African animals.
Scenes: 1. Down by the river, Tselane is kidnapped by Zimwe and then taken to a village.
2. Tselane's parents search for their daughter, asking all the animals they encounter.
3. By chance, they all meet in a village and surreptitiously Tselane is freed and replaced in the drum by bees.
4. The next morning, when the drum does not sing, Zimwe rips off the top off the drum only to be chased away by the bees. Tselane is free and goes home with her parents.
Synopsis: This story focuses on the gluttonous ways of an African Zimwe and how in the end his appetite and Tselane’s family foils his plans. Tselane is abducted, imprisoned in a drum, and forced to sing on demand. From village to village the Zimwe travels and receives marvelous feasts in exchange for "his" entertainment. The parents search desperately for their fair-voiced daughter and finally stumble across the Zimwe in a village. When they realize that their daughter is in the drum they remain patient. Tselane's father encourages the man to eat and drink too much and he falls asleep. Exchanging his daughter for a swarm of bees the Zimwe is tricked out of his singing drum. The next morning, everyone gets what they deserve as the Zimwe is ridiculed and chased forever away by the bees and Tselane is fed a large meal.
Rhymes/Special Phrases/ "Flavor": The story does not contain much "flavor" by itself but does innately hold great possibilities. I have chosen to add some rhymes and illiteration in order to add drama and "tellability" to the story. The animal voices were also added (on the recommendation of Brian Sturm) in order to involve the young audience more. The best quality of this story is the audiences' urge to see Tselane freed and reunited with her family and the Zimwe punished.
Audience (why is this story appropriate for the audience? Developmental characteristics?): "When the Drum Sang" is a beautiful and rich tale that holds much appeal to a younger audience. This story quickly and clearly delineates between the good and bad characters. Within the first two pages the innocence of Tselane and the wickedness of the Zimwe are easily seen. The Zimwe is the archetype of evil in many African folktales; a bogeyman if you will. His own self indulgence is his only concern and sweet-singing Tselane is his unwilling instrument. Next we see the persistence of parents love for their child. Traveling far and wide, they search thoroughly for their daughter but when they finally find her they are patient. Finally, everyone is satisfied with the ending when the young girl is freed and the Zimwe gets the punishment he is due. This is not an overly moralistic tale but subtly shows that with faith and patience the good are set free and the wicked punished. Due to the strong emotional content and the sensitive issue of kidnapping, this story can be seen as not appropriate for three and four year olds. I believe the story has many engaging themes and good resolution in the end to negate these questions of appropriateness. It is a gentle introduction to many complex emotions in a well-defined environment.
Sources recommending this story/collection as good for storytelling:
After searching and searching, I could find no sources that recommended this specific story as good for telling. There were however several references to other stories by Anne Rockwell listed within our textbook recommended as good for telling. Although this fact is barely worth mentioning, I do because while searching for the recommended stories I stumbled across this sublime tale. I believe another strong justification for this story is the number of versions and variants I discovered. This theme is extremely popular and has manifested itself in many stories.
Bibliographic information on other versions/variants (at least two):
There were two other versions of this story I could find within our libraries. The first is only described as central or equatorial Africa while the second is certain Bantu. Each has it own particular story line but employs the same basic theme of a young girl being abducted by a Zimwe character and forced to sing.
Aardema, Verna. "Little Sister and the Zimwi." Tales for the Third Ear from Equatorial Africa. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1969.86-93.
Arnott, Kathleen. "The Singing Drum and the Mysterious Pumpkin." African Myths and Legends. Oxford: Oxford University Press,1962. 179-185.
I was able to find two variants of the story also. The first is a Puerto Rican and the second is described as Ba-suto.
Alegria, Ricardo E. "The Singing Sack." The Three Wishes. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1969. 107-110.
Jacottet, E. "Tselane." The Treasury of Ba-Suto Lore. London: Kegan, Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. 1908. 62-69.
Brief comparison of all versions/variants/ in terms of language, rhythm, "tellability," "flavor," content, etc. Stress the difference in style rather than those of content:
Each of the versions and variants listed above has their own qualities that make them unique. The central plot-line of the stories are the same with each containing a young girl who is kidnapped because of her singing ability and confined with a sack or drum. The story I chose was great for telling primarily because of the rich detail of the scenes and the emotional quality of the characters. Because of these qualities, I found the story to be very real. The surroundings were well defined and the characters acted in predictable ways. It established a steady rhythm and keeps the reader/listener engaged. All the other tales lacked at least one of these qualities, which made them, appear more generic and less dynamic. The tale "Tselane" was by far the roughest. It was in some ways confusing in the language and rhythm, which effected the flow of the story. Perhaps most importantly the story was gross at times and referred to the Zimwe as a cannibal instead. Entertaining to an adult reader perhaps but not good for storytelling to a child. The "Singing Sack" was also a rough story that did not develop as well as Rockwell's. It is very abrupt and lacks the mystical quality of a singing drum in favor of a simple singing sack. Two tales "Little Sister and the Zimwi" and "The Singing Drum and the Mysterious Pumpkin" were very similar to each other in content. Both had the vanquished Zimwe turning into a pumpkin and returning to haunt the young children. I found this aspect to be confusing and broke up the rhythm. Additionally, these stories did not have the emotional build-up that is so pleasing in the first story. They were the best alternatives and due to their similarities, I am glad I did not have to choose between them.