“Princess of the Wildness” is a unique book best described as contemporary African folklore. Drawing on ancient storytelling traditions, it addresses issues facing modern sub-Saharan Africa in a fun, family-friendly way. The author’s voice renders these stories timeless, as their protagonists both drive trucks and encounter evil spirits. The tone echoes the magical realism of Garcia- Marquez, but with a simple, fairy-tale quality that feels universal.
Children can read Princess of the Wildness with pleasure, enjoying the characters’ adventures even as they learn more about traditions and cultures of Africa. Adults can enjoy it as a work of art drawing on a folkloric history and vocabulary they may not be familiar with. It brings a voice to the market that’s new and fresh, and speaks to a lot of people who are waiting to hear it, whether they know it or not.
The book tells the story of a young woman “Ndito” born among the Masai, and how she faces supernatural forces and triumphs over them.
The story begins with her parents, a cattle breeder and his wife, and places it in a modern context, as Ndito’s father has to spend a lot of time on the road in his pickup truck. The rhythms and traditions of Masai village life are established, and when Ndito is born, with detailed Masai traditions, the context is well-understood.
Ndito suffers from a life-threatening illness in childhood, but is cured by the Mganga, or traditional medicine man of the village. In a tense and folklore-infused scene, she recovers, but her destiny is bound to the spiritual traditions of her people.
Her deep connection to the natural world around her becomes clear as she grows, and as she comes of age, she feels a pull toward a lake deep in the jungle, to visit the magni cent birds that dwell there.
Her journey to the lake follows a traditional folktale structure, as she encounters various obstacles on the path and nds a unique way of overcoming each one of them. The obstacles are mostly in the form of scary, half-supernatural people who seek to bar her way for reasons of their own.
Ndito overcomes these strangers, Mama Yeyo, Mzee, and the wild twins, through her own cleverness and compassion. The overriding theme is that no matter how scary or seemingly inhuman a person might be, there are still things they want and things they will respond to, even if those aren’t obvious at rst. She makes her way past the scary people, the dangerous animals, and the unfamiliar terrain, nding her way to the lake she’s sought.
The lake renews her personally and spiritually, and she makes her way home, past the same dangers, nding new and easier ways of escaping them. At home in the village once again, she becomes a respected healer and storyteller.