Kingship, kinship and the king of beasts in early southern African novels

Munslow Ong, J ORCID: 2021, 'Kingship, kinship and the king of beasts in early southern African novels' , in: The Palgrave Handbook of Animals and Literature , Palgrave Studies in Animals and Literature , Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 423-435.

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Human interactions with pantherine cats are used to establish new imperial, social and familial structures in Southern African literature. The chapter will focus on Thomas Mofolo’s Chaka (1925, trans. 1931) and Solomon Plaatje’s Mhudi (written 1920, published 1930), which are set in pre-colonial Southern Africa and offer fictionalised histories of tribal wars. In both texts, men and women are also brought into conflict with lions and leopards. When, in their respective novels, Mhudi and Chaka kill the “king of beasts”, this allows the former to become Ra-Thaga’s equal partner in marriage, and the latter to be identified as a future leader of his people. Human-animal conflicts therefore have religious, political and interpersonal significance. They run in parallel to the tribal battles, and human triumphs over other species directly inform the development of new social structures that in turn effect the outcomes of human wars. In contrast to representations of big cats in contemporaneous Africa-set colonial and adventure fiction by white writers such as Percy Fitzpatrick and H. Rider Haggard, Mofolo and Plaatje show the transformative effects that species destruction has on existing orders.

Item Type: Book Section
Editors: McHugh, S, McKay, R and Miller, J
Schools: Schools > School of Arts & Media > Arts, Media and Communication Research Centre
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Series Name: Palgrave Studies in Animals and Literature
ISBN: 9783030397722 (print); 9783030397739 (ebook)
ISSN: 2634-6338
Related URLs:
Depositing User: JM Munslow Ong
Date Deposited: 16 Apr 2019 14:36
Last Modified: 26 Nov 2022 02:31

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