8 South African folktales that could make movies as great as The Jungle Book

Cape Town, South Africa (LSA) – The Jungle Book movie, which is currently showing at cinemas, was originally an Indian folktale which Rudyard Kipling turned into a book. Here is a list of really cool South African folktales that could make great movies.

1. Ungcuka NoDyakalashe (Wolf and Jackal)

Dyakalashe (Jackal) is caught in a farmer’s trap after stealing lambs from a kraal. He then convinces uNgcuka (Wolf) to set him free and take his place in the trap. Naïve uNgcuka falls for this trick. The farmer arrives and discovers uNgcuka in the trap. Conniving uDyakalashe escapes, while uNgcuka pleads for his life in the farmer’s hands. This is a definite tear jerker, and could keep audiences entertained and angry at the same time. The betrayal theme should keep everyone guessing and intrigued. No animal seems to be innocent here, and that makes it even more thought-provoking.

2. Imbuyekezo Yelizwe (The world’s reward)

 UNja overhears his master planning to kill him. He escapes and goes on a treasure hunt. Along the way he meets seven other animals who become his friends. They encounter adventures along the way, and must work together to gain strength. Movie goers appreciate stories of overcoming obstacle and tragedy, and this folktale has all of that. With a murder plot, high speed chases, gun shots and screams, this story, as a movie, will keep you on the edge of your seat.

3. Ubanjiswe Iliwa (You’ve Been Tricked)

In this dramatic tale, uMvundla (Hare) is chased up a rocky mountain by angry uMfene (Baboon). Anticipating getting caught, uMvundla leans against a rock nearby as if preventing it from falling. He cries out to uMfene to lean against the rock too, otherwise it will squash both of them to death. UMfene does as he is told, while Mvundla escapes under the pretence of going to getting help. Imagine the cinematography up in the high mountains (Drakensberg maybe), with uMvundla huffing and puffing just before being caught, and the soliloquy he gives in front of uMfene. This, as a movie, would be perfect because of the strong dialogue and funny one liners you could get.

4. Ukuzingela Kuka Ngonyama NoDyakalashe (Lion and Jackal’s Hunt)

This is a betrayal and revenge story. UDyakalashe (Jackal) and uNgonyama (Lion) go on a hunt, and manage to capture some prey for lunch. UNgonyama expects the two of them to share equally. However uDyakalashe has other plans, as he takes the best meat for his family. UNgonyama and uDyakalashe then have a fallout and battle it out. This could be a movie that captures raw emotions from an animated cast. A great movie usually has the underdog, and watching uDyakalashe lying and risking his life to feed his family should leave you proud and disgusted at the same time.

5. Ibala Elimnyama Kumqolo KaDyakalashe (A Long, Black Stripe on Jackal’s Back)

ULanga (Sun) has come to earth, and is so tired that he needs a ride on uDyakalashe’s back. Once comfortable, uLanga relaxes and burns uDyakalashe. This could be a medical drama; third degree burns, helicopter-on-roof scenes, attractive doctors and a national manhunt for the sun. This folktale could be excellent as a movie because the powerful, evil character finally gets his day.

6. Isigwebo Sika Mfene (The Judgment of Baboon)

This folktale is about the natural order of things. UMpuku (mouse) had torn a tailor’s clothes with his sharp teeth and denied it. The tailor reports the case to the king – uMfene, who then passes judgment to all animals and elements, such as Wind and Fire, because the culprit wouldn’t admit his guilt. This could be the thriller of the century; the detective undertones make a great movie, especially if you enjoy following the breadcrumbs.


Image Source: Diana Robinson, Flickr, Creative Commons Mother elephant with twins in Amboseli National Park, Kenya, East Africa

Image Source: Diana Robinson, Flickr, Creative Commons
Mother elephant with twins in Amboseli National Park, Kenya, East Africa

7. UMlungu NoRhamba (The White Man and the Snake)

UMlungu (White Man) helps uRhamba (Snake), who is stuck under a large rock. URhamba decides to bite the white man after she is freed, but with the help of uDyakalashe, the man outwits uRhamba into a compromising position. UDyakalashe convinces uRhamba to demonstrate how she was stuck under the rock. Once under the rock again, uDyakalashe tells the man not to free uRhamba again. Just the cast in such a movie would make for great viewing. Seeing a snake on screen is both scary and fascinating, and watching the seductive uRhamba not only threatening uMlungu but also asserting her femininity would be great. A love triangle, perhaps, between the three?

8. Uhadi Lwenkawu (The Monkey’s Fiddle)

UNkawu (Monkey) leaves his land of birth due to poverty and hardships. He is given a bow, arrow and uhadi (music instrument) by his uncle. Along the way, he meets uNgcuka, who initially befriends him. He then discovers the power of the bow and arrow, and takes them from uNkawu. UNgcuka cries out to the other animals that he’s the rightful owner of the hunting weapons, and uNkawu is sentenced to death. Still with his uhadi, Unkawu plays a moving piece that convinces the other animals of his innocence. Imagine this folktale as a musical movie with a huge cast and a great selection of songs. This could become a blockbuster with the potential of a sequel, and probably a stage production, too.

Watch the trailer of The Jungle Book, below, and let us know which folktale you think would make a great movie, in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

This report prepared by Sonwabile Maqubela for LiveSA.