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Djeha, the North African Trickster

Djeha, the North African Trickster

Edited by Christa C. Jones
Hardcover : 9781496847041, 196 pages, August 2023
Paperback : 9781496847058, 196 pages, August 2023

The first annotated English translation of sixty ancient folktales featuring an icon of the Maghreb


Djeha—also known as Juha, Jeh’a, and Ch’ha, among many variations—is an iconic figure, the trickster hero of an oral folktale tradition that has existed for centuries. The famous Maghrebian prankster is a poor, cunning, and resourceful character that delights in immoral behavior. Orientalists Auguste Mouliéras (1855-1931) and René Basset (1855-1924) were among the first Frenchmen to collect and translate popular Berber folktales. Today, trickster folktales from Algeria’s mountainous Kabylia region are not well known in the Anglophone world, even though they continue to be highly popular in France and in North Africa. Djeha, the North African Trickster is an annotated, critical translation of Auguste Mouliéras’s folktale collection Les Fourberies de Si Djeh’a, first published in French in 1892.

The volume contains sixty tales and an in-depth introduction in which Christa C. Jones discusses jocular literature in Islam, the widespread oral folktale tradition linked to Djeha and his Turkish twin brother Nasreddin Hoca, and the impact of colonialism on the gathering and dissemination of the tales. The trickster is at the center of six themed chapters: “Family and Kinship”; “Animal Tales"; “Faces, Places, or Daily Life in the Village"; “Foodways”; “The Intricacies of Hospitality: Beware of Friends and Foes!"; and “Religion, Death, and the Afterlife.” Each chapter contains ten folktales preceded by a short introduction that contextualizes the pieces using historical, folkloristic, literary, and ethnographical sources. Ultimately, the book contributes to the preservation of an ancestral oral heritage, delivering this enduring character to new audiences.


"Djeha, the North African Trickster expands the audience for Arab folklore and offers students and scholars a broader understanding of Djeha tales, especially those emanating from North Africa."

- Anne E. Duggan, editor of A Cultural History of Fairy Tales