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The Shape-Shifting Monsters of African Lore: Background information when reading Black Leopard, Red Wolf

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Black Leopard, Red Wolf

The Dark Star Trilogy

by Marlon James

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James X
Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2019, 640 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2020, 640 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Natalie Vaynberg
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About this Book

The Shape-Shifting Monsters of African Lore

This article relates to Black Leopard, Red Wolf

Stories of shapeshifters have permeated literature and art from the beginning of civilization. Therianthropy, or the changing of a human into an animal, is perhaps the most commonly known trope of the shapeshifting genre, with illustrations of such changes dating back all the way to 13,000 BC.

ImpunduluIn his novel, Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Marlon James brings together many different therianthropy tropes to create an interesting kaleidoscope of the real and the imagined. The shapeshifters in the story can be heroes or monsters, they are sometimes tragic and sometimes terrifying. Beyond all else, they are rich with symbolism and imagination.

There is the Impundulu, the Lightning Bird, common to Zulu and Xhosa legends. The picture to the right is of a hammerkop, which is believed by some cultures to be a manifestation of the mythical bird. This creature can call lightning at will and often belongs to a witch or witch doctor. The Impundulu also drinks blood and, by doing so, sometimes ...

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