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Lyons Den Books

Raw Head, Bloody Bones: African-American Tales of the Supernatural

(Scribner, 1991; Aladdin paperback, 1994)
 Jacket illustration © 1991 by Lars Hokanson.

Giants and ghouls and ogres and ghosts - the creepier the creature, the better the story.  Some of these stories are as ancient as the night. Others are twentieth century creations. Many began in Africa, and several are African-American originals - a delicious blend of two cultures.

Read a review of this title


Like Raw Head, Big Sixteen is an exaggerated tall-tale hero. And like their white counterparts, Paul Bunyan and Mike Fink, both Raw Head and Big Sixteen have superhuman qualities. Raw Head is the devil's cousin, a man who is "more'n a man." Sixteen is so big that he wears a size sixteen shoe. Such heroes did not exist in African-American folklore until after the Civil War, perhaps because tall tales are rare in African folklore.

Also, African-American story characters, like the slaves themselves, had only two safe weapons: trickery and common sense. The slaves did not tell stories about powerful men because even verbal display of physical strength might threaten the master. Only after freedom could African-Americans afford to create super heroes in their folklore.

(From Raw Head, Bloody Bones, p. 67)


Read scary stories alone (if you dare!), or read aloud to a brave friend. For thousands of years, storytellers have told tales after dark, their faces lit by the eerie glow of firelight. To set the stage as they would have, turn off the lights. Burn a candle. Play scary music to get in the mood.

Just as good storytellers everywhere do, make the story your own. Use your whole body to interpret the tale. Writhe and wriggle and moan and groan. Speed your voice up, then slow it down. Make faces, beat on a table, point at your audience. When it feels right, add something new or leave something out. And don't forget to add the best part of a supernatural story...


(From introduction to RAW HEAD, BLOODY BONES, p. 6)