K. Sello Duiker’s The hidden star was published posthumously in 2006 and met with mixed critical reactions. In this article I argue that Duiker’s achievement in this novel has yet to be fully recognized and appreciated. Ironically, this fantasy for younger readers has been dismissed both as an unsuitably long fairy tale and a novel too disturbingly adult to be suitable for children. It is possible that the level of critical confusion generated by the work is because it is a rare South African example of what Brian Attebery refers to as `indigenous fantasy’ (1992:129), that is, fantasy that, like an indigenous species, is adapted to and reflective of its own native environment. I also suggest that there is an unfortunate tendency among South African adults to dismiss all fantasy as unhealthy escapism rather than acknowledging that good fantasy is often a convenient vehicle for encouraging readers to explore and question the norms of a less-than-ideal consensus reality. This assertion is supported by a detailed
discussion of the novel in which it is shown that Duiker’s magical realism humorously confronts vital issues for young South Africans including the relationship between indigenous and colonial cultures, gender issues, coming of age, multiculturalism, the proper treatment of animals and, more mundanely, how to deal with bullies who steal one’s sandwiches.