Moral Degeneration in Setswana Hare Folktales: An Analysis of Behavioural Themes—Tricks, Murder and Violence




hare folktales, moral degeneration, moral precepts, morality, Setswana, utilitarian perspective, behaviour


In previous research, it has been argued that African folktales are primarily narrated to teach moral precepts, reprimand inappropriate behaviour, and caution against immorality in African societies. Nevertheless, Setswana hare folktales do not seem to serve these functions. Instead, the main character in these folktales frequently exhibits behaviour that contravenes moral standards and is associated with moral degeneration without any unpleasant consequences or punishment. The aim of this article is to explore such behaviours in the folktale “Mmutle le Phokojwe le Senonnori” (The Hare, Jackal and the Bear) and the modern-day occurrences of moral degeneration, as recently reported in popular digital media, including eNCA, IOL News, News24 and TimesLive. The utilitarian theory of psychology is employed as a framework to determine the extent to which hare folktales contravene the notion of morality and the function of teaching moral precepts. This qualitative study is based on a master’s dissertation, thematically analysing behaviours of moral degeneration, namely tricks, murder and violence, depicted in folktales. As the folktale “Mmutle le Phokojwe le Senonnori” depicts behaviour associated with moral degeneration, its effectiveness in teaching about morality becomes compromised and flawed. Therefore, Setswana hare folktales seem irrelevant in teaching and awakening Africa’s moral potential. It is concluded that without meaningful interventions by folklorists, folktale teachers and narrators, hare folktales cannot impart moral precepts efficiently.

Author Biography

Refilwe Ramagoshi, University of Pretoria

Dr Refilwe Ramagoshi is a senior lecturer at the University of Pretoria, lecturing in various language-related modules under the department of African Languages. She supervises Honours, Masters and Phd students in the African Languages field.


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How to Cite

Boya, Thapelo, and Refilwe Ramagoshi. 2022. “Moral Degeneration in Setswana Hare Folktales: An Analysis of Behavioural Themes—Tricks, Murder and Violence”. Southern African Journal for Folklore Studies 32 (2):15 pages .



Received 2023-03-28
Accepted 2023-08-02
Published 2023-08-16