Both of Mufaro's daughters are beautiful but Manyara is bad-tempered and Nyasha is kind. When the king of the land asks the daughters to appear before him so he can choose a queen, Manyara decides to set out in the night so she can get there first. Along the path are many opportunities to show one's true character. Nyasha who follows the same path the next day makes different decisions - with different results and a surprising ending!
Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe provides examples of:
- Gender Bender: The king shapeshifts and poses as an old woman as part of the Secret Test of Character he gives the girls.
- King Incognito: The people the girls meet are said to be the king in disguise. The king uses his shapeshifting powers to test the girls.
- Missing Mom: The girls have a father, but no mother is ever mentioned.
- Secret Test of Character: The king secretly tests the character of both Manyara and Nyasha to see how they behave to people, in order to see which daughter is worthy to be his wife.
- Sibling Yin-Yang: Nyasha is good and kind, while Manyara is bad-tempered and proud.
- Spared by the Adaptation: In some versions, Manyara is killed or even eaten by the snake king.
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: The king possesses this power, and uses it to test the girls.