By Amelia Meyer
Wild animals are often used in folklore to communicate various themes, beliefs and customs. Folklore is made up of myths and tales that usually impart some sort of lesson to the listener. These were not written in their original forms, but were carried down through the generations by word of mouth. As a result, they evolved over the generations, and were adapted by various tribes and cultures. However, their root lesson remained constant. These stories were not always told in the form of a tale being related to young ones, but were sometimes portrayed in song and dance.
In some cultures, like the Swazi one, rhinos (and the other plants and animals that appear in the stories) are given human attributes to make them more personal to the listener. This gives the listener the ability to identify characteristics in the rhino that exist within themselves;which, in turn, makes the conveying of a lesson or moral far easier and more successful.
In addition to featuring in folk tales, rhinos have also been the subject of many pieces of art. This is particularly true of the Chinese pieces, since these animals were once prolific in Asia. There remains a bronze zun wine vessel that was discovered in 1843 in Shandong.
This is the oldest piece ever discovered and is undeniably beautiful. It is adorned in ornate swirls and patterns, which display the rich colour of the bronze. However, this is just one example of artists using the rhinoceros form in beautiful art.
Regardless of how and why the rhino is portrayed in culture and folklore, it is an inescapable truth that these animals retain a fascination in the minds and hearts of human beings, and have done so for centuries.