The Depiction Of Feminine Characters In Sepedi Folktales

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Ramohlale M.I , Chauke O.R , Motlhaka HA


The study of folklore is not only interesting, but important to know the culture, religion and origin of a particular society or speech community. One main reason why folklore had survived and transmissible from one generation to the next, is the aesthetic nature it possesses. Folktales, in their true origin, are oral traditional literature which were narrated by elderlies, women in particular, to children in the traditional thatched hut, in the evening while cooking food collected from the fields. Our definition of Folklore as an oral history that is preserved in societies, able to be transmitted from one generation to the other, coincide with the definition nicely crafted by Bronner (2019:5) who said that:

Folklore as a scholarly term is used in a broad sense to refer to manifestations of traditional knowledge: that is, cultural practices and expressions learned through word of mouth, imitation and demonstration, and custom. In the narrower sense of popular usage, it often refers to oral expressions such as legends, folktales, songs, and proverbs, while social and material traditions such as architecture, crafts, rituals, and festivals are associated with folklife.  

Folklore allows people to give meaning to their way of life, how they adopted a particular living style and their attachment to their surroundings. Folklore is made up of two words; folk, which means regional people, and lore, which means stories. Therefore, folklore refers to the stories told by people. Because every culture has different historical backgrounds and traditions, folklore has a different definition to each culture. Culture has been referred to as man’s “social heritage” and as “the man-made part of the environment”, it consists essentially of any form of behaviour which is acquired through learning and which is patterned in conformity with certain approved norms (Bascom, 2014: 284). Bapedi are people found at Bopedi, where Sepedi language is the language been spoken. Bapedi have their own culture which procreated unique folktales capable to teach their youth about their origin, religion and values. The emergence of mythology in folklore further qualified this discipline to be more diverse. It is somewhat believed that myths developed from culture. The question may arise; why do cultures develop myths? Myths offer insight into what a specific culture thinks about the nature of the world in general and about key questions, such as the nature and function of gods, humans’ relationship to the gods, the social systems and values within a culture, what it means to be a human and the two sexes’ relationship to one another (Vandiver, 1984: 5).  Myths are commonly used to describe the origins of a group of people, the beginning of the universe, Why they eat the kinds of food, why they merry their cousins and why they have kings. Cultural songs in folktales are meant to consolidate the cultural knowledge in the minds of recipient. Quite often, children would be heard singing those songs learned from the tale that was narrated last night. Songs incorporated in creative writing makes reading pleasurable and serve the following function; one of the functions of songs in the narrative is that they often mark the structure of the story in a clear attractive way. Songs add a musical aspect, an extra dimension of both enjoyment and skill (Ihueze, 2015:58). What prompted us to initiate and developed courage to pursue this study is how Sepedi folktales attached and associated women with persistently depicted characters. This character is always vulnerable, always chased by the cannibal and in most cases caught, always found herself in very dangerous situations where she will escape through a very slim and miraculous chances.  

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