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Pathos, Disguise and Mischief: A Celebration of the Underdog in Traditional Shona Literature

Francis Matambirofa


Traditional Shona literature, which in the context of this article encompasses folktales, myths, and legends, as well as other oral art forms deploys devices such as pathos, disguise, and mischief, among others. Through these devices, preliterate Shona literature celebrates the struggle of the underdog to transcend the limitations imposed by their circumstances. Underdogs comprise such people as the sick, the old and the disabled, among others. This article seeks to describe the fantastic accomplishments of underdogs and demonstrate how they are delivered through the midwifery of pathos, disguise and mischief, which is carefully designed to offset the underdogs’ impoverishment in terms of wealth, health, looks, social influence and other attributes. Inter alia, the article demonstrates that the Shona worldview as expressed in traditional Shona literature is a democratic, facilitative space in which special laws of justice and retribution are deployed to catapult the underprivileged in their quest to reclaim their abused humanity.

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