Women characters play various roles in African epics, including heroic roles, but audiences and scholars generally fail to note and appreciate the full extent of these roles, focusing, instead, on male characters and their actions. The experiences and actions of men get more attention than those of women. Notions such as heroism are seen and understood from a male perspective. These biases are built into research tools such as the motif indexes and the hero pattern. This paper outlines these problems, offering a critique of how we hear or read stories, and advocating a new approach, founded on new critical and conceptual premises, such as the idea of female heroism. Though focusing on epics, this paper incorporates comments on women in folktales, based on the premise that folktales are a key part of the groundwork on which epics are based, in terms of both structural elements and the representation of female characters and roles.


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pp. 61-67
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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