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Literature 8 Name ________________ ________ Grade 8 Score:


4 African Epic
Literary Piece: Gassire’s Lute
Epics are narratives born from the oral storytelling traditions of ancient societies. Usually legendary in nature, there
different social groups to pass from generation to generation their age-old histories, religious, morals, and practices originally tell
narratives in poetic from used.
Epics, in general, have qualities or features that make these different from other folk narratives. Listed below are some of
these qualities:
1. An epic has a hero who comes from a noble or royal bloodline and who engages in superhuman deeds in battle.
2. An epic is ceremonial and full of grandeur.
3. An epic dialogue is elaborate, formal, symbolic, and boastful.
The African epic contains all the qualities generally found in western epics. However, the African epic has other features
that are deeply rooted only in the African story telling tradition. Here are some of them:
1. The African epic is a combination of imaginative fiction and historical facts. The fictional tale is rich in historical and
cultural references which are skillfully woven into the narrative without making it appear and sound like a historical
2. The African epic is infused with songs, riddles, and proverbs, and are mingled with the use of musical accompaniment.
3. Like Western and European epics, the African epic is also centered in transmitting the heroic qualities of its hero/heroes.
4. The African epic emphasizes the bard’s or the griot’s essential role as a most treasured preserver of history to a
particular culture and a group of people.
5. Unlike other cultures whose folktales have become a thing of the past, the African epics is a living, spoken act which is
integrated in the daily lives of the different African societies. Although used as a form of entertainment, the epic is
performed as an act of celebrating a particular group’s or culture’s identity and as education for the younger generation.
The Poetic Refrain
In primitive tribal chants or poems, singers/poets often make use of a literary feature which highlights a poem’s oral
heritage and enhances it to produce and build up meaning. This feature is known as a refrain. The word refrain is from the Old
French verb refraindre, which means “to break off” or “repeat.” A refrain is a phrase, line, or group of lines which is repeated for
rhythmical effect or to indicate a pause or a break usually at the end of a stanza throughout the poem.
Challenge Yourself
FT1 Pick the words in the box that define words in each item.

Indomitability dissension gnawed girth lute

partridge smith tussle restive splendor

1. to bite or chew something repeatedly, usually making a hole in it or gradually destroying it

2. a bird with a round body and a short tail that is sometimes hunted for food or for sport
3. arguments and disagreement, especially in an organization, group, political party, etc.
4. a difficult disagreement or violent argument
5. the distance around the outside of a thick or fat object, like a tree or a body
6. unwilling to be controlled or be patient
7. a musical instrument that has a body with a round back and a flat top, a long neck, and strings that are
played with the fingers
8. great beauty that attracts admiration and attention
9. someone who makes things out of metal, especially by heating it and hitting it with a hammer
10. used to say that someone is strong, brave, determined, and difficult to defeat or frighten
FT2 Answer the following in questions based on the epic Gassire’s Lute.
1. Why does Gassire long for the death of his father Nganamba Fasa?

2. What does the jackal symbolize? What does “a jackal gnawed at Gassire’s heart? Mean?

3. According to the old wise man, why will Gassire never inherit the kingship of his father? What destiny awaits him?

Literature 8 -page 2- First Quarter

4. What incident makes Gassire accept that he will never be king? Cite lines from the epic to prove your answer.

5. What do you think is the significance of the lute to the entire epic?

6. In what way do Gassire’s actions adversely affect the life of his family and his people?

7. Why does Gassire desire so much of fame and immortality?

8. What do the men of Dierra mean by the line: “The rest of us incline more to life than fame. And while we do not wish to dies
fameless, we have no wish to die for fame alone”? Do you agree with this ? Why or why not?

9. What does Gassire give up to achieve his immortality? How did he do this?

10. In achieving both fame and immortality, do you think Gassire is indeed triumphant? Justify your answer.

FT3 Read the following passages and state what conclusions you can draw from each of them.
1. Gassire’s heart was full of longing for the shield of his father, the shield, which he could carry only when his father was dead,
and also for the sword which he might draw only when he was king.

2. Gassire lay, and a jackal gnawed at his heart.

3. “… Wagadu will be lost./But the Dausi shall endure/ and shall live!”

4. The smith said: “This is a piece of wood/It cannot sing/if has no heart.”

5. Four times Wagadu disappeared and was lost to human sight: once through vanity,/ once through falsehood,/ once through
greed,/ and once dissension.

FT4. Fill in the character map of the major character in the story using heading given in the ribbons.

How Gassire looks and feels What Gassire says


What Gassire does What others say about Gassire