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Tydskrif vir Letterkunde

On-line version ISSN 2309-9070
Print version ISSN 0041-476X


VAN NIEKERK, Jacomien. African orality in the work of Eugène Marais: the interaction between selected "San poems" and Dwaalstories (Wandering tales). Tydskr. letterkd. [online]. 2022, vol.59, n.3, pp.73-95. ISSN 2309-9070.

In this article I analyse the criticism surrounding two songs from a well-known collection of oral prose narratives told by a San performer, transcribed by the white Afrikaans author Eugène Marais and published as Dwaalstories (Wandering tales) first in 1921 as magazine stories and then in 1927 as a book. The songs, "Die towenares" (The sorceress) and "Hart-van-die-dagbreek" (Heart-of-the-daybreak), both form part of the oral prose narrative "Die Reënbul" (The Rain Bull). Designating these lyrical texts as 'songs' is a conscious choice, considering that they have been interpreted as poems ever since Marais extracted them from the Dwaalstories and included them in his collected poems in 1925 and later collections. My argument is that these lyrical texts function in the same way in "Die Reënbul" as songs do in most oral prose narratives (or, folktales) from Africa. Their designation as poems has however resulted in attempts at analysis in which their oral origin is ignored, misunderstood, or undervalued. One such study is the text-immanent 'structural analysis' performed by Merwe Scholtz. I briefly critique a few other studies about (the songs in) "The Rain Bull", finding that while they are more sophisticated than that of Scholtz, there are still significant inaccuracies. Though the scope of my article is limited, I also make the case for a context-driven interpretation of all the songs contained in the Dwaalstories.

Keywords : Afrikaans literature; Eugène Marais; oral prose narratives; songs; Dwaalstories; text-immanent approaches.

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