dilemma tale

or judgment tale

Typical African form of short story.

Its ending is open to conjecture or is morally ambiguous, allowing the audience to comment or speculate on the correct solution to the problem posed, whether a conflict of loyalty, the need to choose a just response to a difficult situation, or the laying of blame when several parties seem equally guilty. Dilemma tales function both as instruction and entertainment and help establish social norms.

* * *

also called  Judgment Tale,  

      typically African form of short story whose ending is either open to conjecture or is morally ambiguous, thus allowing the audience to comment or speculate upon the correct solution to the problem posed in the tale. Typical issues raised involve conflicts of loyalty, the necessity to choose a just response to a difficult situation, and the question of where to lay the blame when several parties seem equally guilty. An example is the story of a young boy who in a time of crisis must choose between loyalty to his own father, who is a cruel and unjust man, and loyalty to the kindly foster-father who brought him up.

      Another tale deals with a man who died while hunting an ox to feed his three wives. The first wife learns through a dream what has happened to him, the second leads her fellow wives to the place where he died, and the third restores him to life. Which of the three most deserves his praise?

      A third tale has a tortoise as central character. Tortoise wishes to be thought of as equal in power and authority to Hippopotamus and Elephant. When his boastings reach their ears, however, they snub him by saying he is only a small being of no account. So Tortoise challenges both of them to a tug of war and through a trick pits them against each other, thus winning from each the grudging consent that he is their equal. The audience must decide exactly how equal the three of them are.

      A final example is the tale of three brothers, all married to the same girl, who journey together to a strange land. One night the girl is murdered by a robber, and the eldest brother, with whom she is sleeping, is condemned to death on suspicion. He begs leave to visit his father before he dies. When he is late in returning, the second brother offers to die in his place, but, as he is about to be executed, the third brother steps forward and “confesses” that he is the murderer. At that moment the eldest brother rides in, just in time to embrace his fate. Which of the brothers, the listeners are asked, is the most noble? As these four examples show, dilemma tales function both as instruction and entertainment, and they help to establish social norms for the audience.

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Dilemma story — A dilemma story (also dilemma tale) is an African story form intended to provoke discussion. They are used as a form of both entertainment and instruction.[1] References ^ Bascom, William Russell (1975). African dilemma tales. Walter de Gruyter.… …   Wikipedia

  • tale — /tayl/, n. 1. a narrative that relates the details of some real or imaginary event, incident, or case; story: a tale about Lincoln s dog. 2. a literary composition having the form of such a narrative. 3. a falsehood; lie. 4. a rumor or piece of… …   Universalium

  • Hedgehog's dilemma — The hedgehog s dilemma, or sometimes the porcupine dilemma, is an analogy about the challenges of human intimacy. It describes a situation in which a group of hedgehogs all seek to become close to one another in order to share their heat during… …   Wikipedia

  • Manciple’s Tale, The —    by Geoffrey Chaucer (ca. 1396)    Chaucer’s Manciple’s Tale is the last fictional text in THE CANTERBURY TALES, in most manuscripts coming immediately before the Parson’s sermon on the Seven Deadly Sins that ends the collection.A BEAST FABLE… …   Encyclopedia of medieval literature

  • Franklin’s Tale, The —    by Geoffrey Chaucer (ca. 1395)    The Franklin’s Tale is one of the most admired and discussed of CHAUCER’s CANTERBURY TALES. The tale is based chiefly on the folklore motif of the “rash promise,” though there is no specific source or close… …   Encyclopedia of medieval literature

  • New Tale of Zatoichi — Shin Zatôichi monogatari Directed by Tokuzô Tanaka Screenplay by Minoru Inuzuka Story by Kan Shimosawa Starring Shintarô Katsu Mikiko Tsubouchi …   Wikipedia

  • A Folk Tale (ballet) — A Folk Tale ( Et folkesagn ) is a ballet in three acts created in 1854 for the Royal Danish Ballet by the Danish balletmaster and choreographer August Bournonville. The music was composed by Johan Peter Emilius Hartmann and Niels W. Gade. Set in… …   Wikipedia

  • Florizel (The Winter's Tale) — Florizel is a fictional character in Shakespeare s The Winter s Tale .Florizel is the son of Polixenes – King of Bohemia. He falls in love with Perdita wishing to marry her until his father protests; objecting to the marriage, warning Florizel… …   Wikipedia

  • African literature — Introduction       the traditional oral and written literatures together with the mainly 20th century literature written mostly in European languages but also to an increasing extent in the many languages of the sub Saharan region. Traditional… …   Universalium

  • Changes: a Love Story —   Author(s) Ama Ata Aidoo Country …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.