Akha Oral Literature


Paul W. Lewis.- Akha Oral Literature. White Lotus. Bangkok. 2002

The present book is a selection of the main themes of the Akha Oral Literature. A short selection that only is useful as an introduction to this people's literature. The reader interested in this issue will feel that the different literary genders are shown in a rather minimalist way, making him wonder what is the real extension of the Akha oral literature.

Arbitrarily divided in five unequal sections, the first, Stories and Legends, occupying half of the book, is the most interesting. It provides fine examples of a tradition of story telling closely related to that of other peoples linguistically related. The man who marry God's daughter, the origin of fire, the story of how the Akha lost their books, stones that turns into human beings, are all common themes in related mythologies.

The animal tales and the tales of the Joker A Ju Ni include nice pieces where the humor of the Akhas is transmitted.

The Epic Story of Two Brothers is an interesting piece of literature, full of cultural and mythological symbols. The Epic Poem of Creation (the third part) has been excessively abbreviated, providing the reader only a simple frame of what can be the real text.

The Proverbs section is well developed, showing a glimpse of the main values in Akha culture and society.

Knowing the deep knowledge that Mr Lewis has of the Akha culture and literature, we feel it is a pity the shortness of this book. We hope that in the future can be complemented with new works on Akha literature.

Paul W Lewis served as missionary in Burma and Thailand for over 40 years. His linguistic and anthropological training (he earned his PhD in Anthropology) prepared him to examine in depth the languages and cultures of the Akha and Lahu. Shortly after their (with his wife Elaine T. Lewis) arrival in Burma in 1947 the Lewises began their study of the Lahu and Akha languages. Dr Lewis reduced the Akha language to writing in 1950, and helped in various literature and development programs among them and the Lahu people living in Burma.

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