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The Last Storytellers: Tales from the Heart of Morocco

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  254 ratings  ·  30 reviews
Marrakech is the heart and lifeblood of Morocco’s ancient storytelling tradition. For nearly a thousand years, storytellers have gathered in Jemaa el Fna, the legendary square of the city, to recount ancient folktales and fables to rapt audiences. But this unique chain of oral tradition that has passed seamlessly from generation to generation is teetering on the brink of e ...more
Hardcover, 264 pages
Published June 15th 2011 by I. B. Tauris (first published January 1st 2011)
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Mindy McAdams
Feb 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: morocco, africa
I searched out books about Morocco because I was going to visit Morocco in May 2016. As a result I read a number of very good books that otherwise I might never have found. This collection of oral folk tales from the public storytellers in Marrakech is unique among those books, and I really loved it.

The collector and writer of these tales has been a BBC journalist for almost 20 years. In his wonderful introduction to this book, he explains how the traditional storytellers were a fixture in Marra
Sep 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My husband Robin treated me with a trip to Marrakesh. We went straight to the holy grail of storytellers the Jemaa el-Fnaa in the Medina Quarter. We found monkeys in dresses, coiled up snakes but no storytellers. We asked and asked and were assured they would come but they never did. We tried for three days. Finally I walked into a bookshop and Richard L. Hamilton's The Last Storytellers fell into my hands. I read the stories while breathing in the sensory delights of the marketplace and the sto ...more
Simon Bell
Mar 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book is clever, fun and very interesting. It teaches some valuable lessons which help you to see things differently. It's a great read and will keep you immersed for days. You will permanently have your head buried in this book and its many tales. Definitely read it!!!!! Zoe, age 10. ...more
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Richard Hamilton collected thirty-seven folktales between 2006 and 2009 on the Jemaa el Fna, the famous market of Marrakesh, where the five tellers of these tales were among the last who still make (or used to make) a living from telling stories to a live audience. The translations are not verbatim, and Hamilton admits to occasionally embellishing the language of the stories (which shows when a turn of phrase sounds modern), but they are close to the originals. This is not a folklore publication ...more
Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
'The Last Storytellers' is a book that puts into print stories from the Moroccan tradition of oral storytelling, which goes back almost a thousand years and is now in danger of becoming extinct. Assisted by his guide, Ahmed Tija, Richard Hamilton, the BBC's Moroccan correspondent, sought out in Marrakech five authentic storytellers. Typically they were men who followed what they saw as their fate, despite the disapproval of orthodox Islam and the opposition of their families who regarded storyte ...more
Thomas Hübner
Sep 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing

What a wonderful book!

Richard Hamilton, a BBC journalist with a weak spot for Morocco has collected some of the stories that are told until today by the traditional storytellers in Marrakech. The storyteller, once a fixture of each Arabic tea house, is unfortunately a craft that is disappearing quickly thanks to the ever-present TV or other electronic gimmicks in each coffee shop or tea house nowadays. And that is a real cultural loss. At least some more of the
Tash Bell
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book so much it prompted me to travel to Morocco (which is saying something, as I'm usually more Megaluf than mega culture). Richard Hamilton is a BBC correspondent who's been travelling round this part of the world for years, and clearly loves it. Keen to document an oral tradition now under threat, he's put together a 'playlist' of wonderful tales from local storytellers: This colourful collection of fables, morals and misadventures - all honed for listeners over countless generat ...more
Bouchra Zahhaf
This is by so far one of the best books that tackled the art of storytelling in Marrakech. Through a collection of stories from the Moroccan folklore, Hamilton takes the readers to experience a new world; a world that lays in the imagination of oral storytellers in the red city of Marrakech. It is an interesting book for both Moroccan readers who want to learn more about oral storytelling as a Moroccan cultural aspect through stories which might be lost or forgotten, and Western readers who migh ...more
Rachel Blech
Jul 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
This collection of short tales unlocks the mysteries of some of the old fables of Morocco that are part of the tapestry of Marrakech cultural traditions. In particular, the simplicity of the message and moral of some of the stories sticks with the reader long after the last page has been turned - one year after first reading these stories I still recall the tale which describes the birth of the Sahara desert, growing and swelling in size with each lie told by Man! "The Last Storytellers" capture ...more
Apr 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is like a coloring book for grown ups - one's own imagination makes the difference between a boring sketch and a wonderful story. Alternatively, one could really do with a story teller...

Like 1001 Nights and very much unlike the Western fairy tales, the stories go unpredictable ways and have a twisted sense of who deserves the princess and the kingdom. In "The Sultan's Daughter and the Leper", the guy who is lazy, drunk, ugly and not particularly clever wins just because he is massively luc
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. A series of short stories as told by the storytellers in Morocco.

Stories and storytelling is an important tradition in Morocco, these are tales that have been told for many years in the town squares, villages and cities across the land.

They stories are varied and interesting, they entertain and provide the reader or the listening with moral challenges and lessons - like all good stories do.

This book is well written, throughly researched and worth every moment of your
Jean-Marc Pierson
Jul 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! The style is dynamic, sober, efficient. It is full of gems. The stories were collected by the author from Moroccan story tellers who had learned them through oral tradition and had told them in the street of Marrakech and at the Jemaa el Fna, an open space for performers at the center of the market...
You get the familiar perfume of traditional story telling, however you keep being surprised...
Topping & Company Booksellers of Ely
Jan 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
The marketplace of Jemaa el Fna, in Marrakech, once swarmed with storytellers right from the city’s foundation in 1070 yet today those storytellers captivating market audiences with tales of love, trickery and death are disappearing. Intrepid BBC journalist Richard, with the aid of tour guide Ahmed Tija, set out to record some of these vivid tales. It beautifully highlights the enchanting nature of storytelling. A precious collection not lost.

Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
After listening to translations of the Marrakesh stories told by young apprentice storytellers from the medina, I was very happy to be able to read even more stories from other parts of Morocco. There is a reason and purpose for each story. They paint a cultural and historical picture that even today, influence the dynamics of relationships between people, local and foreigner, and help the reader to better understand why Morocco and Moroccans are who they are.
Hilary Gould
Jan 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
The marketplace of Jemaa el Fna, in Marrakech, once swarmed with storytellers right from the city’s foundation in 1070 yet today those storytellers captivating market audiences with tales of love, trickery and death are disappearing. Intrepid BBC journalist Richard, with the aid of tour guide Ahmed Tija, set out to record some of these vivid tales. It beautifully highlights the enchanting nature of storytelling. A precious collection not lost.
Nov 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017-books
I always try and read books associated with a new place when I'm traveling. This was ideal - every story is a few pages long. I read it on the way to Morocco and while I was in the country. If you love folklore, short stories, or are heading to Morocco, I'd give this book my strongest recommendation. ...more
Luke Montgomery-Smith
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the books I love dearly and turn to regularly when i want to be transported to the site, sounds and scents of Marrakesh and Morocco. The tales of Jemaa el-Fnaa and of how Richard and his translator found the storytellers make the stories all the more vivid. It has a permanent place on my bedside table.
Hajar Elmo
Apr 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
I have never before read a book that is formatted in this style, other then the grims tales, but much to my surprise, I really enjoyed it. We sometime forget that literature and storytelling flourished far beyond our time as well as our culture. It has truly inspired me in many ways but also allowed be to treasure the value of storytelling and the pleasure that comes with it
Ewen McNeil
Jul 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you have been to, or thinking of going to Morocco this is a great book to give you the insight of the many traditions and mystique surrounding the age old country. As a tourist having this understanding helps you 'ease' into the culture. A 'pick up put down' book that is full of enjoyable passages that you can go back to time and time again. ...more
Katherine Soutar-Caddick
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful stories' beautifully retold about one of my favourite places on this planet. The images dance in my eyes and I can smell, see and hear the country I love. The red lantern is my favourite but they are all wonderful. ...more
Lizzie Paish
Oct 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Really captures the magic and atmosphere of Morocco. I dip into it time and again - definitely recommended.
Franco Pfaller
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I liked this book so much that I bought a few of them to give away to friends (I did not want to part with my copy).
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An excellent read.
Anthony Sattin
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful collection of stories that shines light onto parts of Marrakech and the Marrakshi way of thinking and being that most of us never even get to glimpse.
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
I had a growing feeling of unease as I read this book. It wasn’t simply that many of the stories were misogynistic or violent; this is not unusual in old folktales from many countries. It was more that I began to have suspicions about the degree of editorial interference and influence in the final products that I was reading, knowing as I did that they had gone through a lengthy process of “refinement” before getting into the immaculate little collection.

The British author-editor of this collec
Jul 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
I was disappointed with this book. I liked the introduction, with the history of storytelling, and his journey to finding the storytellers, but the stories were very similar, and some of them lacked any moral. It just seemed to lack the passion that I'm sure the storytellers put into them when they tell them in Fna. ...more
Apr 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
It was so magical to read this book of Moroccan folk tales while staying in Marrakech. The introduction with the author's story of finding the storytellers and the tradition of storytelling was fascinating. The stories themselves are very traditional with a lot of the same themes of betrayal, testing fidelity, riches, and adventure. ...more
David Wilusz
Nov 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book is the remarkable result of one man's effort to record on paper many of the oral short stories that have been told in the ancient squares of Morocco for a thousand years - a tradition perhaps in its twilight as TV, the Internet, and shortened attention spans threaten its existence. So the author spent 3 years actually recording the stories, before they were lost. Indeed several of the original storytellers have since died, and but for the author's efforts, this slice of cultural histor ...more
William T
Feb 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Good fun all the way around
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The Last Storytellers , a journey in an exotic culture. 1 4 Jul 08, 2017 07:35PM  

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