Folktale influence on setting in the Shona novels

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Application of Propp and Dundes’ theory

According to Msimang (1986:13) Marivate was “ … among the first to establish that African tales have a fairly simple plot compared to European ones if motifemic depth is considered i.e. each tale consists of a small number of motifemes.” In a study of Tsonga folktales, Marivate (1973) concludes that despite the lack of motifemic depth the folktales have a tremendous complex plot. This is due to a combination of the simple motifeme sequences to form a number of moves which result in sequential depth. This is clearly the case in cyclic folktales. This feature of sequential depth which is so characteristic of African folktales was first observed by Dundes. This is why a number of scholars applied the Proppian model as modified by Dundes.

Olrik’s 13 Epic laws

The structuralist Axel Olrik is one exponent of the oral formulaic approach. He looks to the narrator and his performance for the key to the composition and structure of the folktale. Olrik in Dundes (1965: 129-141) contends that there are common rules for the composition of the folktale. He calls these rules the epic laws. According to Olrik these laws are universal. Olrik’s epic laws included the law of opening and closing, the law of contrast, the law of two to a scene, concentration on a leading character, the law of repetition, the law of three, the law of single strandedness, the law of patterning, the logic of the sage, the use of tableaux scenes and the unity of plot.

Limitations, validity and reliability of data

The researcher encountered problems during the recording of folktales. Folktales were not recorded in the evening, the prime folktale performing time. At times potential performers had to suspend their own activities to tell a folkstory. Often, there was no audience; hence the quality of folktales was affected. Most performers were women and the older they were the more easily they seemed prepared to tell a ngano. Most male respondents declined to tell, citing lack of time. In a few cases it was necessary to provide an incentive often in the form of liquor in order to induce story- telling. While justice seems to have been done when all folktale anthologies were consulted, it is rather different with oral folktales which were collected from one district only.

Essential features of folktales

The essential features of a folktale already pointed out above are not necessary to repeat. The features that apply when the term folktale is used in a broad and in a narrow sense are almost one. However, it should be pointed out that the most common and the most popular Shona folktales include the subtypes: trickster tales especially those revolving around the cunning and wily hare (tsuro); human tales e.g. « Pimbirimano » (folktale 1 in Appendix), ogre or monster tales as well as etiological tales e.g. « How the rabbit got a short tail ». It is important to note that the etiological tale cited resembles myths in that it seeks to explain the origin of things yet it is not, as it has no religious element if the content is analysed.


The development of the novel.

The English novel has surely developed slowly and gradually over the centuries that it has been in existence. Msimang (1986) notes the same when he writes that “The novel is a dynamic literacy genre which has been changing its form through the centuries ever since Cervantes published his Don Quixote in 1605’’ (Msimang 1986:30) In the Zimbabwean context, it is the English novel that has provided a model for the Shona novel. Slowly and gradually the Shona novel has transformed in form since the publication of the first Shona novel Feso by Solomon Mutswairo.


    • 1.1 Preamble
    • 1.2 Background to the problem
    • 1.3 Problem statement
    • 1.4 Aim of the study
      • 1.4.1 Objectives of study
      • 1.4.2 Assumptions
      • 1.4.3 Hypothesis
    • 1.5 Literature review
    • 1.6 Justification
    • 1.7 Theoretical and conceptual framework
      • 1.7.1 Propp’s theory
      • 1.7.2 Dundes’ theory
      • Application of Propp and Dundes’ theory
      • 1.7.3 Scheub’s theory
      • Application Scheub’s theory
      • 1.7.4 Olriks’ 13 Epic laws
      • Application of Olriks’ laws
      • 1.7.5 Research Methodology
      • Collection of folktales
      • Questionnaires
      • General Reading of Novels
      • Main Procedure
      • Limitations, validity and reliability of date
    • 2.0 Introduction
    • 2.1 Influence defined
    • 2.2 Folktale defined
    • 2.3 Classification of prose narratives
      • 2.3.1 Myth
      • Essential features of myths
      • 2.3.2 Legend
      • Essential features of Legends
      • 2.3.3 Folktale
      • Essential features of the folktale
    • 2.4 The novel
      • 2.4.1 The novel defined
      • 2.4.2 Characteristics of the novel
      • 2.4.3 The development of the novel
      • 2.4.4 Epic
      • Romance
      • Allegory
      • Picaresque
      • 2.4.5 The novel today
      • 2.4.6 Conclusion
    • 3.0 Introduction
    • 3.1 Plot defined
    • 3.2 Plot structure
    • 3.3 Plot of the Shona folktale
      • 3.1 The law of opening and closing
      • 3.3.2 Exposition
    • 4.1 Introduction
    • 4.2 Setting in general
    • 4.3 Setting in Shona folktales
      • 4.3.1 Social Circumstances
      • 4.3.2 Setting as place where the study takes place
      • 4.3.3 Setting as the time when story takes place
      • 4.3.4 Folktale influence on setting in the Shona novels
        • Folktale influence on setting in Feso
        • Folktale influence on setting in Karikoga Gumiremiseve
        • Folktale influence on setting in Jekanyika
        • Folktale influence on setting in Musango mune nyama
        • Folktale influence on setting in Ndinofa Ndaedza
        • Significance of folktale influence on the setting in Shona novels
  • 4.4 Conclusion


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