Malta - The traditional tales told by old folk can reveal a lot about a people and its culture. There's nowt as queer as folktales, and Maltese ones are no exception.
A few years back I was contacted by an acquaintance of mine to provide illustrations for a children's book - Maltese Folktales. I was one of ten different illustrators to collaborate with writers, musicians and storytellers. The project was ably put together by the Creative Ruben Żahra. The stories were those passed on from one generation of Maltese storytellers to another.
Sitting at the centre of the Mediterranean, Malta has offered refuge for many travellers throughout history. Its stories have both influenced and in turn been influenced by the cultures which it came into contact with. Malta's folklore is rich with stories of those within and of its visitors.
The first scholar to attempt recording the island's folk stories was the Jesuit scholar Manuel Magri (1851-1907). You can still get hold of his books online. In common with other folktales the stories feature giants, witches and dragons. They also feature some unique imaginary Maltese beings such as the kawkaw or gawgaw, a grey and slimy creature who roamed the streets at night and could smell out naughty boys. Il-Belliegħa was a monster that lived in wells and could pull in children who looked into them. You get the gist.
Personally I have always been fascinated by Malta's folk stories and the opportunity to be involved was too much to resist. The story I was entrusted with featured a man who used a bad experience he lived through to his advantage (the second part is less morally acceptable) by fooling a princess into marrying him. Let's say it's a tale of social mobility and leave it at that. Hopefully my paper-cut illustrations did the tale justice.
Here is one of the other stories within the book, told by Isabelle Gatt.