Here is the author note for my picture book, including corrections of publisher errors.—Aaron
“Master Man” is a tale of the Hausa, the largest ethnic group of northern Nigeria. The Hausa live mainly on the savannah (grassland with scattered trees) of Nigeria’s northwest quarter.
Though most Hausa live in rural villages—as portrayed in this story—the larger Hausa towns have possessed a sophisticated urban culture since long before European colonization. As traders, the Hausa have for centuries maintained economic and cultural contacts throughout West Africa. Their adoption of Islam led to early development of literacy and written literature.
Tall tales like this about fighting he-men are popular among the Hausa. Many such stories feature the stock character Mijin-Maza, or Namiji-Mijin-Maza. “Master Man” is my own rendering of this name, which has been translated variously as “A-Man-Among-Men,” “Manly-Man,” and “Superman.”
The main source for my retelling is No. 12, “A story about a giant, and the cause of thunder,” in Hausa Folk-Lore, Customs, Proverbs, Etc., by R. Sutherland Rattray, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1913, Volume 1. I drew also on several other Hausa variants of the tale, collectively titled “The Story of Manly-Man” and found in Volume 2 of Hausa Tales and Traditions, by Frank Edgar, edited and translated by Neil Skinner, University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, 1977 (a translation of Edgar’s Litafi Na Tatsuniyoyi Na Hausa, W. Erskine Mayne, Belfast, 1911–1913). And I received my first taste of the tale from the delightful “Superman,” told by Laura Simms, on her tape Stories: Old as the World, Fresh as the Rain, Weston Woods, 1981.