Gullibility and Zimbabwean Shona Folktales: Implications to Biblical Teachings and People with and Without Disabilities

Phillipa Mutswanga


Gullible behaviour is as old as humankind. As such, every traditional culture and religion has different ways of expressing this phenomenon towards people with and without disabilities. Among the traditional Shona, for example, folk tales are among the many popular methods employed to warn society from succumbing to gullibility. Popular folktales involving tricksters such as Mr Hare in which uncle baboon is outwitted by his nephew, Mr Hare. These are textbook examples of how societies express gullibility. Following these reflections, this paper analyses how gullibility is expressed in traditional Shona folktales with a view to draw lessons for modern society. Two popular but different folktales involving uncle baboon and Mr Hare were sampled for an in-depth analysis with a view to establish meanings behind each folktale in relation to gullible behaviour.  The paper found out that gullibility is a fact of life. Further, it came out clear that gullibility in Shona society is veiled through animal characters the most common ones are Mr Baboon and Mr Hare. The former represents individuals who are disadvantaged or vulnerable in society while Mr Hare represents those people in society who have the propensity to taking advantage of other people’s innocence or ignorance. At face value, Mr Hare is portrayed as the wise one, but he is considered a rogue in society who makes it in life by outwitting other people through crafty means (folk tale one). Additionally, the findings revealed that most victims of gullible behaviour experienced shame and embarrassment. Supported with Biblical verses and appropriate interpretations the findings revealed that gullibility disrupts relationships between individuals and groups. Against this background, the paper recommends that; for society to live harmonious the principle of ‘unhu’ should be embraced at any level of human interaction towards both people with and without disabilities. Further, the study recommended that there is need for religious institutions to encourage certain behaviours and characteristics through critical analysis of meanings of folktales as an indirect way of reprimanding, teaching and using folk stories as teaching aids to issues of life and diversity including issues of disability.

Keywords: gullible behavior, Chivanhu, Shona folktales and Zimbabwe.

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