Folklore as an aspect of the African oral tradition has been traced
to traditional African society handed down by customs, beliefs and an
aspect of culture handed down by our for forefathers through orature.
Conflict that arises over death and the quest for re-invention in the
plays of Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman (1975) and Hope
Eghagha’s Death not a Redeemer, (1998) as well as the themes, genres,
song and other aspect of oral literature that form its aesthetics.
Sociological theory, the study of the human relation in the society will
be used for the critical analysis of the two plays under study. The
analyses of the two plays have revealed the importance of folkloric
tradition in the African oral tradition and it has also revealed that
folklore helps Africans. Reunite with their traditional past which they
have lost through colonialism. The conclusion is drawn from two
perspectives of the playwrights, Wole Soyinka is saying that tradition
must stand using Olunde to portray this view; Hope Eghagha on the other
hand beliefs that tradition should be respected, but it is open to
change, as the only permanent thing is change.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Purpose of the Study
Scope and Limitation of the Study
Justification of the Study
Organization of Chapters
The conflict over Death in Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman
The conflict over death and the quest for re-invention in Hope Eghagha’s
Death not a Redeemer
The Element of folklore Employed in the Critical Analysis of the plays of Wole-
Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman and Hope Eghagha’s Death not a Redeemer
A member of African dramatists who writes African plays in English
Language adapt their work from the oral tradition particularly Wole
Soyinka and Hope Enghagha whose works serve as the focus of this
Wole Soyinka’s Death and the king’s Horseman (1975) are based on
ritual, custom, tradition of particular people, which is said to be
folklore. Hope Eghagha’s Death not a Redeemer (1998) is motivated by
Soyinka’s Death and the king’s Horse man (1975). Few definitions by
scholars on folklore will give a better understanding on what folklore
Edward D. Ivese and Joe Scott (1978) saw folklore as:
No song, no performance, no act of creation can be properly
understood apart from the culture or sub-culture in which it is bound
and which it is a part, nor should any work of art be looked on as a
thing in itself apart from the (continuum of creation consumption).
Benjamin A. Botkin (1938) gives a very clear definition of what folklore is about.
Folklore is a body of traditional belief, custom and expression
handed down largely by word of mouth and circulating chiefly outside of
commercial and academic means of communication and instruction.
These definitions express what folklore entails in different words.
Folklore consists of legends, music, oral history proverbs, jokes,
popular beliefs, fairy tales and customs that are the traditions of that
culture, sub culture or group. It is also the set of practices through
which those expressive genres are shared. The study of folkloristic. The
word ‘folklore’ was first used by the English antiquarian William
Thomas in a letter published by the London journal in 1846. In usage,
there is a continuum between folklore and mythology. Smith Thompson made
a major attempt to index the motifs of both folklore and mythology
providing an outline into which new motifs can be placed and scholars
can track all older motifs.
Folklore can be divided into four areas of study, artifact (such as
voodoo dollar), describable and transmissible entity (oral tradition),
culture and behaviour (ritual). These areas do not stand alone; however,
as often a particular item or element may fit into more than one of
ARTIF OF ACTS
Object such as dolls, decorative items used in religious rituals,
hand-built house and barn, and handmade clothing and other crafts are
considered to be folk artifacts, grouped within the field as “Material”
“culture”. Additionally, figures that depict characters from folklore,
such as statues of the three wise monkeys may be considered to be
folklore artifacts, depending on how they are used within a culture. The
operative definition would depend on whether the artifacts are used and
appreciated within the same community in which they are made, and
whether they follow a community aesthetic (The three wise monkeys over
the Tosho-gu shrine in Nikko, Japan).
Folklore can contain religious or mythic elements; it equally
concerns itself with the sometimes mundane tradition of everyday life.
Folklore frequently ties the practical and the esoteric into one
narrative package. It has often been conflated with mythology, and vice
versa, because it has been assumed that any figurative story that does
not pertain to the dominant beliefs of the time is not of the same
status as those dominant beliefs.
Sometimes folklore is religious in nature, like the talks of the
Welsh Mabinogion or those found in ice landic skaldic poetry. Many of
the tales in the Golden legend of Jacob de voragine also embody folklore
elements in a Christian mythology are the themes woven round Saint
George or Saint Christopher. In this case, the term ‘folklore’ is being
used in a pejorative sense. That is, while the talk of Odin the Wanderer
has a religious value to the Norse who composed the stories, because it
does not fit into a Christian configuration it is not considered
“religious” by Christians who may instead refer to it as “folklore”.
“Folktales” is a general term for different varieties of traditional
narrative. The telling of stories appears to be a cultural universal
activity common to basic and complex societies alike. Even the forms
folktales take are certainly similar from culture to culture, and
comparative studies of themes and narrative ways have been successful in
showing these relationship. Also it is considered to be an oral tale
to be told for everybody. On the other hand, folklore can be used to
accurately describe a figurative narrative, which has no sacred or
religions content. In the Jungian view, which is part of the method of
analysis, it may instead pertain to unconscious psychological patterns,
instincts or archetypes of the mind. This may or may not have components
of the fantastic (such as magic, ethereal beings or the personification
of in animate object). This folklore may or may not emerge from a
religions tradition, but nevertheless speak to deep psychological
issues. The familiar example tale may primarily be one of mundane,
instruction regarding forest safety or secondarily a cautionary tale
about the dangers of famine to large families, but as latent meaning may
evoke a strong emotional response due to the widely understood themes
and Motifs such as “the terrible Mother” “Death” and “Atonement with the
There can be both moral and psychological scope to work, as well as
entertainment value, depending upon the nature of the teller the style
of the telling, the age the audience members, and the over all context
of the performance. Folklorists generally resist universal
interpretation of narrative and where ever possible, analyze oral
versions of telling in specific contexts rather than print sources,
which often show the work or bias of the writer.
CULTURAL ASPECTS OF FOLKLORE AND THE DYNAMICS OF CULTURE
Folklore William Bascon says has many cultural aspects, such as
allowing for escape from societal consequence. In addition, folklore can
also serve to validate a culture (romantic nationalism) as well as
transmit a culture’s morals and values. Folklore can also be the root of
many cultural types of music; country blues and blues grass all
originated from American folklore. Folklore can also be used to
ascertain social pressures, or relieve them, for example in the case of
humor and carnival. Folklorists study medical, supernatural, religious
and political, belief system as an essential, often unspoken, part of
Mary Magonlick describes cultures as dynamic. Anthropologists and
folklorists of previous generations sometimes lamented that an age of
high technology and global capitalism would result in the demise of
“traditional” cultures. Today, we more often consider culture and
tradition as fluid and dynamic resources which interact with the modern
world, rather than bearing over run or determined by it.
Folklorists Barre Toelkens Sums up the current view of many scholars
about the dynamism and vitality of “culture”. In folklore, as in the
biological world, variation from a hypothetical norm is universal. No
two individuals are exactly alike in every detail no matter how closely
related. Variation affects every sort of characteristics, structural or
functional, and occurs in tradition. Toelken says: (1996)
“Folklore is ever-changing, always developing, on the move.”
Toelken also stresses that folklore and cultural processes are all
linked by single force. The interactive dynamics of living culture. They
can be studied but such studies will offer greater insight when built
upon the premise that cultures always change. As scholars from all
fields, including physics are nothing, the whole universe and everything
within it is in constant movement and flux.
When the modern notion of culture was first margined by Victorian
Scholars, it was used to prove the evolutionary model Western
civilization as the apex of human possibility. These thinkers had
Darien’s evolutionary model to work from, and thereby recognize change
as a constant force in earlier history. In 19th century Edward Tylor
defines culture synonymous with civilization as: (1970)
“That complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art,
morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by
man as a member of society.”
Although this definition seems very inclusive and wide ranging, its
ultimate effect is to define and ultimately to limit culture as a
particular “whole” Tylor accounted for the messiness of his categories
with concepts like “Survivals” bits of culture that hang on into the
next stage of evolution (1970).
Clifford Geertz sees culture as equivalent to a text, and therefore
something to be interpreted, Shery B. Ortner explains his concept of
cultures “Geertz” arranged that: (1999)
“Culture must be seen as the webs of meaning within which people
live, meaning encoded in symbolic forms that may be understood through
acts of interpretation analogous to work of literary critics…”
Geertz’s notion of culture spurred a generation of ethnography and
interpretation of cultural production. The notion and practice of “think
description” that he contributed are still valuable. Culture has never
been seen as other than complex; yet the full measure of its complexity,
the extent of the “web” is now emerging as process as vast and
overwhelming as life and cosmology.
CONTEMPORARY ORAL TRADITION
Many genres of folklore have vanished forever with the passing of
lest tradition bearers familiar with them. There is living folklore all
around. Complex work place lore, various contemporary tales, legend and
anecdotes, rumors, parodies on proverbs and riddle. It will be
interesting to see that relationship between traditional agrarian
folklore and contemporary forms of folklores in the near future, the
traditional taxonomy, the perspectives contributed by the theory of
immanent Art, ethnopoetics, cognitive, science, structuralism,
sociolinguistic, psycholinguistic, as well as the notion of folkloristic
These developments all represent a shift away from the world of old
text criticism of purely and solely diachronic or typologically oriented
frame works, and they also mean a shift away from the world of grammar
Tradition and Authenticity: cultural renewed occurs individually,
flowing from and shaping individual lives, while shaping and resonating
with lager patterns of traditions, worldview, and personal inspiration.
Tradition flows into and from this process of convergence. Classic
defines tradition as: (1995).
“History, culture, and the human actor meet tradition, which is volitional, temporal action”.
When humans commit to willful acts of creation intended to express
cultural or social connection, they are participating authentically in
traditional culture. Throughout time and space cultures change and adapt
rather than die.
Dell Hymes (1975) understands tradition in equally fluid and emergent terms:
“the traditional begins with the personal. Its distribution in
history, in a community, is important, but secondary, not defining.
Something’s partakes of the nature of the traditional already when the
effort to traditionalize has brought it into bearing… intact traditional
is not so much a matter re-creation, by successive persons and
generations, and in individual performance. ”
Folklore and tradition both rest on notions of situation creativity and performance.
Demallie (1988) develops his definition of culture with consideration
of the dynamic and fluid nature of culture. He notes that both symbols
and their associated meanings change over time and according to various
outside and inside influences, providing the dynamic that keeps human
groups in constant flux. Such fluidity of culture is universal and
natural. Give this fluid and dynamic definition of culture. “authemtic”
need only refer to moments of creativity or interpretation, when
individual commitment brings social association. So long as one acts
freely, with desire to connect to the “traditional” within a
society (i.e, the work and ideals of other society members which are
also willful, creative and consciously connected to values or ideals of a
social group) resultant creations, expressions or interpretation are
FOLKLORE IN NEW WORLD BLACK FICTION: WRITING AND ORAL TRADITION AESTHETICS (REINVENTION OF CULTURE) CHIJI AKOMA
The complexity of the new world demands that any meaningful
exploration of its cultural landscape, especially with reference to its
literary production, take not of the regions multiple racial identifies,
the histories of slavery, military conquest and various forms of
migration to the area in different time and circumstances. For a study
on folkloric forms in narratives by writers of African descent in the
new world, it is certainly important to bear that complexity in mind.
Although this work draws from African oral performance aesthetics in the
examination of works by selected authors.
The intersections between African folkloric practices and other
cultural traditions that is present in these texts. It is fair to claim a
black bias based on the preponderance of signals indicative of that
heritage and on the strength of the claims made by the authors. This
point is worth emphasizing, for in a region composed of indigenous
people and descendants of people from Africa, Asia, and Europe it is
tempting to view literary production through the prison of it’s most
dominant number, the United States, which despite the growing visibility
of its minority writers. For much of the Southern Hemisphere that has
long come under the political and economic dominance of the North and
Europe, the ramification of this dominance might be felt through the
marginalization that occurs due to limited access to the world stage.
In the context of such dominance, many despotic black writers have
sought to assert their place in the New World’s cultural production
through conscious engagement with and tribute to their continental
African heritage, defined by oral verbal arts and folklore. It is not
difficult to assess the reason behind the close association between
folklore and New World written narrative tradition.
PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
The particular purpose of this research topic is primarily to do a
critical analysis on Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman (1975)
bringing out the conflict over death in the play, And also Hope
Eghagha’s Death not a Redeemer (1998). The Theme, genre, Rhythm, song,
method language, and cartelization will be analyzed in both plays.
The project work is intends to bring into focus folklore and the
quest for re-invention and how the selected authors have been able to
portray this in their various play.
SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
This project work is limited to Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s
Horseman (1975) and Hope Eghagha’s Death not a Redeemer (1998) brings
out the folklore in both works and also establishing the re-invention
that occurred in folklore.
This work is going to critically look at the conflict over death in
both plays and also move on to analyzing theme, Genre, language, method,
characterization, song, Rhythm in both plays. Then the project gives a
general conclusion of the entire work, how the project work will be
beneficial to all.
JUSTIFICATION OF THE STUDY
This project work looks at folklore because it has been long
forgotten; bring a re-birth of folklore in a different way. Doing a
merging of two different plays, a play that has been written since 1975
by Wole Soyinka and a very new play written in 1998. This two plays can
not be compared, but they both deal with folklore, death and
re-invention. That is why this project decided to use both authors, for
the project work, because that is what is suitable for the topic.
This research work specifically discusses the issue of conflict over
death in Wole Soyinka’s Death and the king’s Horseman(1975) and Hope
Eghagha’s Death not a Redeemer (1998), it will also deal with analyzing
Rhythm, theme, Genre, language, cartelization, song in both plays.
This research work sets to examine folklore and the quest for
re-invention in the selected work. To this extent, sociological method
is adopted for the research. Sociological theory is centered on the
attempt to understand the society. Sociological theory relies heavily on
the scientific method, its objective, and does not presume to judge the
society. Sociological theory has separated itself from the other
‘social sciences’ with its focus on society, a concept that goes beyond
nation and includes organization and relationships. The proponents are
Jurgen Habermars, Pierre Bourdieu, Anthony Giddens, Dorothy Smith,
Alfred Schutz, Jeffrey Alexander and others.
Some of the key developments that influenced sociological theory
were: the rise of individualization the appearance of the modern state,
industrialization, and capitalism, colonization and globalization and
the world wars. Sociological theory includes conflict theory, critical
theory, Ethnomethodology, feminist theory, functionalism, interpretive
sociology. But this research work will be looking at Ethnomethodology
because it’s examines how people make sense out of social life in the
process of living it. This aspect is chosen because it deals more with
the project work.
ORGANIZATION OF CHAPTERS
The project work shall be divided into five chapters. Chapter one is
the introduction to the topic. The chapter contains scope and limitation
of the study, purpose of the study, justification of the study,
research methodology and organization of the chapters. Chapter two is
the literature review. While chapter three is the conflict over death in
Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman (1975) and the conflict
over death and the quest for reinvention in Hope Eghagha’s Death not a
Redeemer(1998). Chapter four is the analysis of Death and the King’s
Horseman (1975) and Hope Eghagha’s Death not a Redeemer(1998), while
chapter five is the conclusion, findings and Recommendation.