The Love Potion by Herman Charles Bosman
In The Love Potion by Herman Charles Bosman we have the theme of tradition, love, hope, happiness and fear. Taken from his Mafeking Road and Other Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by a male narrator called Oom Schalk Lourens and from the beginning of the story the reader realises that Bosman may be exploring the theme of tradition. Everybody in the town believes in the power of the juba-plant. According to those who live locally it can help make a woman fall in love with a man. All a man has to do his pick one of the little red berries from the juba-plant and place a berry into a woman’s drink. Though this sounds far-fetched and more suited to local folklore. There are those in the town particularly Gideon who believe in the power of the juba-plant. Such is Gideon’s determination to get some berries he borrows Oom’s light. At no stage does Gideon doubt that the love potion will not work on Lettie. Oom on the other hand has his suspicions and talks to Lettie prior to Gideon using the red berry from the juba-plant. If anything Oom is being more practical and doesn’t wish for his friend to be rejected by Lettie. Which is why Oom is checking out the lay of the land.
Which may be important as not only does it show that Oom has concerns when it comes to the rituals or traditions of the town but he wants to save Gideon from embarrassment. However as Oom talks to Lettie he realises that she loves Gideon. Which suggests that everything will be okay for Gideon when he puts the berry in Lettie’s coffee. How okay is also noticeable by the fact that Lettie after drinking her coffee sits on Gideon’s lap. It is as though their relationship has progressed. Some critics might suggest that the trigger might have been the berry from the juba-plant. However other critics might argue that Lettie and Gideon are already in love and that the berry in the coffee acted as no more than a placebo. The berry in reality being a redundancy from a bygone period in the town.
The fact that Lettie also told Oom that she loved Gideon prior to taking the berry in her coffee suggests that the berry would have done nothing. Lettie was already in love with Gideon. With or without the aid of the berry Lettie had made her mind up when it came to loving Gideon. If anything the folklore and tradition that is given to the juba-plant over the passing of time gives it the legs to survive generation after generation. For those who believed in the tradition or superstition and got positive results they are able to credit the juba-plant. While those whom fail in love after getting berry’s from the juba-plant can always try again. There is still the possibility of happiness for all involved. Where a male may fear not successfully courting a female by way of the juba-plant. He can on a full moon try again to find love. In many ways the tradition of the juba-plant acts a as comfort blanket to those in the town. It is as though the juba-plant and its rituals provides security to all those involved. With the possibility that no man will be without a woman who loves him.
Oom’s friendship with Gideon is also interesting as Oom seems to be protective of Gideon. Something that is noticeable by the fact that Oom’s visits Lettie’s home before Gideon arrives. Oom’s questions to Lettie are also important as not only is Oom trying to find out if Lettie loves Gideon he is also hoping that things will go as planned. Though the reality is there is no need to follow the tradition of the juba-plant when Lettie professes her love for Gideon to Oom. Oom still believes it is appropriate as it is guaranteed to be a success. Gideon also has no clue that Oom arrived on Lettie’s father’s farm not so much to talk to Lettie’s father but to talk to Lettie herself. Things could have gone far worse if Lettie had said she doesn’t love Gideon. Though the juba-plant tradition might be centuries old Oom is cleverer enough to realise that it may be no more than a harmless tradition and if anything Oom didn’t want his friend to be hurt should things not have turned out positively. Though things won’t change in the future at least Oom knows that his friend has the belief of tradition on his side when it comes to the woman he loves. Some people are happy to fall into love while others have rituals that they believe in and which they stick to through thick and thin. Allowing the Gods to determine whether they will be happy in love while others will take love into their own hands and try to do the best that they can without the aid of a love potion.