chapter  4
The Hero’s Use of Supernatural Devices
Pages 24

This chapter of the study deals with the instance when the hero of the African epic acknowledges and appeals to the thaumaturgy of God (or the spirits) throughout his mission. One of the best characteristics of heroic epics is the use of magical power that the hero employs. The issue here is not fairness between the hero and his opponents, but how much advantage the former can have over the supernatural powers used by the latter. The actions that describe the hero’s strength and courage, and most importantly his display of magical powers are the ones that the narrator exploits the most. The bard carefully details the different heroic actions that the hero undertakes in order to convey a mixed feeling of awe, terror and suspense in his audience. Indeed, the success of the performance depends on how well the narrator is able to portray heroism through the emphasis on supernatural means. That is why the signifi cance of the recourse to magic and the supernatural is a standard motif in oral epic literature worldwide. However, it has to be understood in the context of the cultural beliefs in the hero’s society.