BADASS PRINCESS OF THE WEEK: THAKANE, PRINCESS AND SLAYER OF DRAGONS

I’m going to put it bluntly: Thakane is awesome and it’s a crime against childhood (most notably mine) that she was never a Princess that every kid grew up with. Not only is Thakane amongst the strongest female leads I’ve come across in fairy tales – but she’s one of the toughest females in  fantasy as well.

Thakane is the heroine from an African folktale who travels across Africa on a mission that is usually reserved for male leads only: slaying a dragon. Let’s have a look at her story and why she is so awesome.

TROUBLED BEGINNINGS

Poor Thakane didn’t have an easy life. At the beginning of her story, her parents are dead and so she’s landed with the work of ‘two wives’ in raising her kid brothers.

When boys came of age, it’s one of her tribe’s customs that they receive a leather jacket and a shield made from the hides of animals  their father killed;but the hide of a buffalo or wild cat isn’t good enough for the pampered princes. They want their gifts made from the hides of dragons.

Nala's not the only African Princess who had to 'make a journey' to lands unknown
Nala’s not the only African Princess who had to ‘make a journey’ to lands unknown

Of course, the other villagers think her brothers are being spoilt little wee leeches and tell her not to go, but Thakane’s having none of it.

“If they lack anything, these sons of a chief, I will not be to blame for it. I will go and hunt these dragons.”

She asks for brave men of the village to accompany her on her quest, but no man will step up to the challenge;more and more men refuse to accompany her, and eventually news of this request spreads all over Africa…

HER PRINCE

Eventually, prince Masilo hears of her strange request and is intrigued.

‘When Masilo heard of this brave girl who decided to go on a hunting expedition  for the sake of the family honor, he felt a strange excitement at such a bold plan. He also felt ashamed that no man in the whole country could be found willing to go with her to the land of dragons to kill one for her.’

LET’S JUST TAKE A STEP BACK AND THINK HOW REVOLUTIONARY THIS IS

Paperbag princess
It doesn’t have to be like this, Elizabeth! If Masilo’s taught us anything, it’s that there are princes out there that will love you for your strength

What a badass! This is makes Misalo a pretty revolutionary prince, because a prince admiring a princess because of her strength is uncommon. Even in the modern fairy tale ‘The Paper Bag Princess’, the main character , princess Elizabeth, is rejected for being strong and ends up dumping the ungrateful prince because of it. This is a glorious subversion of fairy tale conventions and an act of strength on the Princess Elizabeth’s part, but … Quite a sad message lurks underneath. For both women and men, finding someone to love is a pretty important part of happiness in life; it isn’t weak, it isn’t patriarchal, it’s human nature. Presenting woman with the choice of being strong or being condemned to a life of loneliness is a horrible message.

But in this story, her courage doesn’t make her less feminine or desirable; its what brings the prince into her life. Centuries before ‘The Paperbag Princess’, the message behind Thakane is even more positive.

.

THE ADVENTURE

Jasmine
Escaping overbearing royal parents to go adventuring is not just reserved for princesses

The Prince takes a leaf out of princess Jasmine’s book and escapes the palace and an overprotective father to seek out this intriguing lass. He falls in love with her at first sight (this is pre-Frozen and three pages long, it’s to be expected), and they head off on their journey. All good Princesses seem to like singing and have some kind of magical animal affinity, so hey, might as well use it for practical purposes. Using a magic song, she summons magical animals and asks them to recce the dragon’s locations. They should probably be more confused by the talking eels, but this is African myth, so getting animals to talk is pretty par for the course.

Wasted opportunity, Snow White. If Thakane was in your shoes, she'd have sent those squirrels as lookouts and sent the larger animals to take out the Queen
Wasted opportunity, Snow White. If Thakane was in your shoes, she’d have sent those squirrels as lookouts and sent the larger animals to take out the Queen

They then arrive and meet an old lady in a ghost town. When they ask her why no one’s there, she tells them ‘that her skin’s too tough, so they prefer to use her as a housekeeper.’ I like this description,

The old lady then tells them to set an ambush while she’s feeding the dragon and when they do that, Misalo drives a spear through the beast’s hide.

The old lady thanks them and then gives them a magical stone that will protect them from dragons on their way home, which raises so many questions: where did this stone come from? How long did she have it? Why didn’t she use it to save the villagers in the first place? Why didn’t she use it to escape? Why is she staying alone in an empty village instead of coming… okay, old woman, magical plot device- turn brain off; it’s a fairy tale, and this is hardly the biggest plot hole I’ve come across.

Moving on, they go use this stone to protect them from future dragon attacks and go on their merry way.

It all ends with Thakane and Masilo arriving home to a hero’s welcome, the spoilt brats getting their dragon hide coat, and Thakane marrying the prince and spending the rest of her days as Queen leading a life of luxury.

VERDICT

Even though this is an old African myth, this is one of the most revolutionary Princess stories out there.

She went further than Elizabeth in that she got to be both strong and beloved.And not just by any prince, but by a prince who loved her for her courage and who possessed more personality in this short story than most of the princes I’ve come across in most other stories.

Love you Tiana, but can't help but wonder what could have been if Disney's first black princess movie had followed Thakane's plotline and that frog was telling you where to find the dragon.
Imagine if Disney’s first black princess movie had gone with Thakane’s plot and Tiana here was asking that frog for intelligence on the dragon.

WHERE TO FIND THIS

Why hasn’t Disney jumped on this? When did African myth feature Dragons? (except the creation myth of Kweku Tsin)  and since when did African myth star creatures other than Anansi because we all know the greedy bastard took all the stories for himself? Why haven’t I heard of it until now?

Well, this story, is really, really obscure and really hard to find. It took a lot of work to find this story in the first place, and the only source is an out of print book on Swahili myth. It is worth checking out and a preview of the book can be found on this website:

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=aPAUAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA187&lpg=PA187&dq=Thakane&source=bl&ots=O7e93xkglH&sig=kGPVy-NirP25VE8ll9cOkh_8wfI&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CFEQ6AEwDGoVChMIkJeG17SMyQIVxD8aCh0QcAlV#v=onepage&q=Thakane&f=false

Now that we’ve had a Princess teaming up with her Prince, how can we match this? Well, next week we’re looking at a Princesses who does the unthinkable- a Princess who saves her prince. Here’s a hint as to what story we’re looking at…

cluster of pearls

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