The Man with 10,000 Tales
Harold Scheub spent his career trekking across Africa and recording village storytellers of all stripes. Now, the octogenarian professor reveals how those foreign tales connect us, and why it's so vital to preserve them.
Harold Scheub first went to South Africa on a safari of sorts. In 1967, at the height of apartheid, Scheub—an earnest Midwestern twenty-something with a stint in the Air Force under his belt and a freshly awarded Master’s degree in English—packed a rucksack and hopped a bus for the backcountry. But instead of guns and ammo, he was armed with a bulky tape recorder and D batteries. Scheub wasn't after big game trophies; he was on the hunt for stories.
Scheub had his first brush with African oral folklore a few years earlier, during an English teaching gig in Uganda. As a burgeoning linguist, hearing ancient tales recounted in their original tongue fascinated him, and he resolved to return with the tools and know-how to create an aural archive of stories so that they might be translated, studied and preserved. So Scheub flew to South Africa and hit the road from Johannesburg up the country's eastern coast. When the bus line ran out, he walked, and then started …
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial