The Devil’s Colors: A Comparative Study of French and Nigerian Folktales

Abstract

This study, largely based on five separate published collections, compares French and Nigerian folktales––focusing mainly on French Dauphiné and Nigerian Igboland––to consider the role color plays in encounters with supernatural characters from diverse color backgrounds. A study in black, white/red, and green, the paper compares the naming of colors in the two languages and illustrates their usage as a tool to communicate color-coded values. Nigeria’s history, religious beliefs, and language development offer additional clues to what at first appears to be fundamental differences in cultural approach. Attempting to trace the roots of this color-coding, the study also considers the impact of colonization on oral literature and traditional art forms.

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