The children’s eyes were wide with wonderment as they listened to vibrant fairytales presented by Al Kharareef Storytelling Club at Sharjah International Book Fair. Hanging to every word, , they watched with awe as Zayed University professor Brione la Throp dictated the stories with such fervor and passion. She used amusing accents, swooping gestures and animated expressions that lent a really authentic sense of atmosphere. The energy was indeed, infectious and magical.
She told them a gripping tale of a mischievous, trouble making boy named Nasir. Frequently ill-mannered towards his elders and the environment, his mean spirited actions finally come to a halt when he comes face to face with a rather cross genie who is less than pleased with his disrespectable antics. The genie decides to teach the lazy boy a lesson by making him plough in fields and forcing him to do arduous manual labor for a week. Nasir finally sees the error of his ways and gets a much needed character makeover as well as a newfound appreciation of his family, emphasizing that good manners, respect and family values will never go out of style.
The UAE has a rich heritage in folklore and fables which has been passed on from generation to generation. La Throp mentions that all the stories at the workshop are created by talented Zayed University students from initial concept to illustrations. The students highlight familiar characters from classic fairytales such as Um Al Duwais or Bu Darya and then they expand on it by creating more modern stories to make it relatable, whilst still keeping the essence. “All of our fairytales incorporate traditional UAE elements, whilst teaching children the importance of good family values and morals.” La Throp says.
Unlike more European Disney-like fairytales, traditional UAE folklore can be much darker. It’s not always about crowns that sparkle, frilly gowns or over-privileged princesses locked up in towers. At times the stories are downright sinister or melancholy, emphasizing the trials and tribulations of a simpler time. Keeping their true form is what gives these fairytales a unique sense of Bedouin romanticism.