Pashtun Tales from the Pakistan-Afghan Frontier
By Aisha Ahmad and Roger Boase
About the Book
These tales were collected in the tribal areas of the Pakistan-Afghan border, a region once described as ‘the last free place on earth’, where the caravan routes from Persia, India and China once converged.
With their blend of wit, fantasy, comedy and romance, the tales reflect the Pashtun code of honour and way of life now seriously threatened by social changes and recent political events. Most of them, such as the epic tale of Hazrat Ali, have never been recorded before in any version and might otherwise have been lost forever. Some are recognisable as universal types, such as a version of Androcles and the Lion and the tale that provided Shakespeare with the plot of King Lear.
About the Authors
Aisha Ahmad obtained her PhD from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She has done research on Pashtun women in the tribal areas and has worked as a consultant for the World Health Organization. Roger Boase is an Honorary Research Fellow at Queen Mary College, University of London. He is the author of The Origin and Meaning of Courtly Love, The Troubadour Revival, and many articles on Muslim Spain and Spanish literature.
“Witty, macabre, beautiful and poignant…populated by dozy princes and charming demons, these ancient tales from the border regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan are characterised by yearning: the desire for a past Eden to become a future utopia.” (Murrough O’Brien, Independent On Sunday)
“Pashtun Tales gracefully captures the fierce spirit and charming ways of the Pashtun tribes. Reading this, I felt I was sitting about a campfire high in the Hindu Kush Mountains, listening to tales full of enchantment and laughter. An excellent and well-crafted work that I recommend to everyone.” (Eric Margolis, author of War at the Top of the World)
“There is no more wonderful way to understand a people than through their folklore and proverbs. All the passion, devotion, humour, wisdom, and ambiguity of Pashtun society can be read in the tales in this collection.” (André Singer, Adjunct Professor of Anthropology, UCLA, USA, author of Lords of the Khyber)
“A compendium of pure delight, hilarity, wonder and entertainment which should be enjoyed by readers and listeners of all ages and cultural backgrounds…the authors are to be congratulated for capturing and preserving forever the wit, fantasy, humour, chivalry and romance which can still be found among Pashtuns…Forget EastEnders and Coronation Street. All real life begins and ends in Pashtun Tales.” (Yvonne Ridley, Q-News)
“Although numerous collections of Indian and Asian stories have been made in the past, this is the first substantial anthology of Pashtun tales, offering a first-hand record of an immemorial tradition.” (Bruce Stewart, The Irish Times)
“Essential reading for anyone who wishes to challenge the thesis that world cultures are in a state of inevitable clash. Great fun besides.” (Akbar Ahmed, Chair of Islamic Studies, American University, USA)
“Recommended. Middle East, South Asia, and folklore collections at all levels.” (W.L. Hanaway, Emeritus, Univ. Pennsylvania, Choice, May 2003)
“These tales will be of interest not only to serious students of folklore but to ordinary readers of all ages. They contain many examples of well-known folktale motifs as well as many others never before recorded.” (John Heath-Stubbs, Recipient of the Queen’s Gold Award for Poetry)
“There is perhaps in the psyche of the modern reader a deep longing for the North-West Frontier, which represents perhaps the truly final frontier, behind which lies unknown and wild territory, a true landscape of the mind.” (David McLaurin, The Tablet)
This book is listed in our recommended books section.