The study addresses the problem, already identified in 1986 by Msimang that definitions such as Bascom's (1965) fail to differentiate clearly between historical narratives and legends. To evolve a more accurate definition, this study considers two Sepedi dramas: Make's Sello sa Tonki le Pere and Moloma's Marangrang (1972).
The qualitative approaches (explain, interpret and compare) used in this study show that legends and historical dramas/narratives can be investigated by comparing them to identify differences between these genres. A narratological model suggested by Marggraff (1994) is used, considering three strata (layers) of a text: content, plot and style of writing. The topic, theme and atmosphere are explored, in that order, in the selected texts.
The analysis suggests that the differences between a legend and a historical drama/novel arise from two elements: characters and their actions. In a legend, there are three important pillars: the exposition, the body and the conclusion. The exposition of a legend has five formulaic features: Kgalekgale [long, long ago ], Keleketla [Give us more!], E rile e le nonwane [It is a tale ], and a reference to the narrator (Nonwanenonwane!) and the listeners (Keleketla!). Some sentences/phrases are repeated slightly or without a reply. The action ends with a concluding formula: Se seo sa mosela seripa! [That is the end of the tale]. The action focuses on a main character, and there may be some repetition of actions (a cycle). The time technique may be used. There is often symbolism. Other features include a song (repeated several times), which brings pleasure and/or pride, and sometimes sorrow. A song may play a role bigger than the narrative. The presence of these factors suggests a legend rather than a historical narrative.
The investigation shows that Make does not follow these rules for a legend, but elides actions he thinks the audience/reader already knows, inviting the audience/reader to participate in the narration. That implies that both the narrator and the audience know the 'rules' of a legend Make seems aware that the exposition and conclusion of a legend are based on the use of repetition of formula (a clause, sentence or sentence cluster).
In legends, the characters tend to be flat (not rounded) they are interpreted focusing on one idea only (using a phrase or short sentence), which is not a complete depiction of the character. Often the author exaggerates to create humour. This study confirms that flat characters are typical of legends, adding to the artistic structure of this genre.
Make successfully uses three techniques (the cycle and journey techniques, and symbolism) in constructing Sello sa Tonki le Pere. A cycle is visible in the repetition of the prosecution of Tonki and Pere to illuminate their case, strengthening and simplifying the sentencing of those animals. Make compares life to a linear journey with a beginning (birth) and a conclusion (death). The phases of the journey symbolise stages of a human life. Make used animals as symbolic characters in this drama to represent real people. Tonki and Pere represent criminals. Kgomo and Nku fight for justice for those mistakenly judged guilty of witchcraft, and they represent the accused. Tau's household represents the capital (Judgement), while Kubu's household represents medicine.
A legend should end with a concluding formula: 'Mpho se seo sa mosela seripa!', showing readers/listeners that they can relax, as the narration/fable has come to an end. Make does not use this formula, but ends his fable with 'Pula! Pula! Pula!!'.
To explore the structure of a historical drama/narrative, Maloma's drama Marangrang was considered, focusing on the exposition, development, climax and denouement of the drama.
In the exposition of Marangrang conflict between Mapulana's children Lethoke, T iane and Madikgake (Mokone of Ma a) who argue over traditional healing (and bravery). This plot suggests the presence of the shadow technique (a shadow focuses on the actions of a character which are similar to actions of another character to be introduced later in the play) (Mojalefa, 1997:35). As a traditional healer Lethoke is a shadow for Marangrang; he stands for Marangrang's actions. By contrast, Madikgake stands for all the tribes. This foreshadows conflict between Marangrang and the Bakgatla, Ma abela, Magolego, Mphahlele tribes. This conflict appeals to the audience/readers, who want to unravel these issues/themes.