This study examines Mologadi Ngwana’ Magolego Sepedi tale Mo_emane wa moimana as an example of fantasy.
Fantasy as a genre creates a headache for theorists, because they struggle to distinguish this genre from other types of narratives. One theorist, Rottensteiner (1978:8), sees all narratives as fantasies. He admits that this creates a problem, since not all narratives are fiction. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that narratives broadly represent the thoughts of an author. If the definition of fantasy is too broad, everything that comes from the mind of an author can be seen as an imaginary text, in other words, a fantasy. Butler’s (2006) description of fantasy is narrower, explaining that the concept of fantasy is broader than other tales. This is because it is influenced by traditional fairy tales and by modern scientific fiction (Butler 2006:75). By contrast, Day (1984:277) suggests that in many cases, fantasy can be related to myth. This highlights how broad descriptions of the genre can be, and may lead to some confusion if fantasy is confused with other types of narratives which contain elements of myth. Furthermore, he sees the genre as important because it pushes the boundaries of the human imagination. According to Luckens (1995:27), fantasy often relies on magic and miracles. This argument is also problematic, considering that many fairy tales also contain magic and miracles. Sutherland (1991:247) makes the dubious claim that the actions of a fantasy can never be repeated and supports this claim with the argument that the actions may be truthful as they have a sequence.
The argument of the theorists above indicates that they do not distinguish clearly between fantasy and other genres of narratives. This is the problem to be resolved in this study.
This study directly investigated the plot of a fantasy, Mo_emane wa moimana, because it is important to demonstrate that the plot of a fantasy has specific elements (parts). These elements must be classified according to their importance. The elements found in the plot of a fantasy are the ones that justify the classification of this genre as this type of literature. To reach this justification, the study focused on three objectives. The first was to explain the plot of a fantasy, taking into consideration the content, the plot and the style. The second was to distinguish fantasy from other forms of folklore. The third was to call for the preservation of this kind of literature because there are so few in Sepedi. There was a need to conduct this investigation with an in-depth focus on a Sepedi tale to develop Sepedi folklore.
Aside from the problem of the different views of literary theorists, another reason to conduct research on this topic is that thus far, investigations into such tales have failed to perform critical analysis. The research was therefore conducted by critically analysing one Sepedi fantasy (because of the magnitude of the investigation), while focusing on important distinctive features of the plot of that fantasy, Mo_emane wa moimana to demonstrate the power of miracles (and magic) in the plot and style of this tale.
To resolve this problem of whether this story is a fantasy or a fairy tale, this study followed the following research methods: define, interpret and compare. The study also adopted narratology theory. This theory is directly linked to the plot of the text, and does not focus on the author. It is also important in helping to explain the distinction between these two types of narratives, because various types of narratives (including essays or short stories of various kinds) may wrongly be seen as fairy tales. The contents of a short story may show events that have never happened in reality, but are in a world of possibilities of such actions. Even though a fairy tale does not narrate the literal truth, it is literature, because this genre has all the characteristics of literature, namely content, a plot and style, as well as characters, a reader/listener and an author/narrator. The function of the reader/listener of a fairy tale is not to identify ‘mistakes’, but to enjoy the narration, and to realise the depth that the author/narrator has to create the tale.