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Of Folkloristics and Folk Tales

– RVS Sundaram and PCK Prem

Folkloristics, comparativey, has been a new area of study, research and linguistic and sociological aspects in contemporary learning. Folk lore and folk tales enhance knowledge acquisition. In our country there are languages laid down in the eighth schedule in our constitution and innumerable are the variants of those languages in our innumerable ‘tongues’.  Folk tales are aids to study and explore our ancient traditions and culture in distant parts of our vast nationy. Talking about these it is important and useful to consider them in their motifs and types.

In the South Prof R V S Sundaram did a lot of work on folkloristics. He consulted the works of Kenneth and Mary Clarke (ed.), 1966, Folklore and Folk Life, Richard M. Dorson, (ed.) 1972, Introducing Folklore, Kenneth & Mary Clarke, (ed.) 1963, Marxism and Poetry, George Thompson, People’s Publishing House, ,Primitive Song, C,M.Bowra, 1962, Standard Dictionary of Folklore and Mythology and Legend, Maria Leach (ed), 1975, The Human Body, C.H. Best, N.B. Taylor, The Lyric Impulse, C, Day Lewis, 1965, The Popular Ballad, Francis B’ Gummere, 1907 and The Study of Folklore, Alan Dundes (ed), 1965.

Folk knowledge and wisdom have been divided into groups like General Folklore, Prose narrative, Ballad, Dance, Games, Music and verse, Drama, Custom, Festivals, Geography, Language, Art, Craft and Architecture, Food and Drink. International Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences explained thus: “Folklore means (signifies) folk learning; it comprehends all knowledge that is transmitted by word of mouth and all crafts and techniques that are learnt by imitation or example as well the products of these crafts. Folklore includes folk art, folkcrafts, folk tools, folk costume, folk belief, folk medicine, folk recipes, folk music, folk dance, folk games, folk gestures, folk speech as well as those verbal forms of expression which have been called folk literature but which are better described as verbal literature.”

Usually our writers classify folk literature, prose narratives, proverbs, and riddles, of poetry and songs, poems, story poems and prose narratives as epics, legends, tales in great admiration and appreciation. Sundaram the efforts of Antti Aarne (Finnish Folklorist) and Stith Thompson (Thompson believed the folktale to be an important and living art) underlying all literary narrative forms. Most of all he wanted to acquaint readers with most of the great folktales of the world, not only for their own interest as stories, but as elements of culture. He writes about the nature and form of the folktale, gives an account of tales from Ireland to India) with which their book The Types of the Folk-Tale came out in 1928. Folk tales do not begin with a prominent action or conclude suddenly. As the two German brothers Jacob Grim and Wilhelm Grim view, Prof R V S Sundaram propounds an Indo-European theory about folk prose narratives. In that motif index and type index are playing a great part in the study of Janapada, folk stories. He published a book in Telugu ‘Sundara Jaanapadam’ which has been reviewed in this journal.

There is plenty and rich Folk Lore in various genres in our spoken languages of the rural folk in circulation. Down the ages the tales get transformed in folk communications. Puranas are narrative tales including extra-human devatas, celestials and demons. There are many areas of folk lore, folk knowledge and folk writing and living – all of which get conjoined in the term folkloristics. Folk are not merely villagers. Prof Sundaram quotes Alan Dundes: “The term folk can refer to any group of people what so ever who share at least one common factor. It does not matter what the linking factor is – it could be an occupation, language, or religion – but what is important is that a group formed for whatever reason will have some tradition which it calls its own.”

P.C.K. PREM has written two books and the first was discussed in the earlier Section. Both are published by Authors Press, New Delhi 2017 In the second Folk Tales from the Northern Region of India there are four parts

1. Some selected Tales from Jammu & Kashmir (8 tales)
2. A few tales from Himachal (5 tales)
3. Some meaningful Tales from Punjab and (4 tales )
4. Some Remarkable Tales from Hindi (Speaking) Regions (6Tales)

Folk literature is as ancient as man since it took birth along with man. To protect it, means safeguarding a great legacy.

Folk literature construes psychological, cultural and philosophical areas of growth and development of a country and in the background wholesome ingredients of folklores and folktales stay to reflect on a country’s culture, ethos and heritage. With the passage of time, transformations take place signalling wonder, excellence and splendour in growth but within the body, diverse features remain more or less unchanged. A man continues efforts to beautify body but a unique module resides within to testify its identity.

One must go deep into the folk literature to understand the culture of a country. Study of folklores and tales is not only interesting and thrilling but it also gives exhaustive overviews of lifestyles, traditions, customs and rituals of the people. It throws light on the untreated attitude of men and matters otherwise so original and fascinating. Life is simple but erudition and scholarly outlook make everything multifaceted, convoluted and impenetrable. A further study reveals the depth of wisdom and knowledge in gestures, language, and simple expressions of the illiterates, the uninitiated and children, who constitute the whole fulcrum of a community.

An author of more than fifty books in English and Hindi, P C K Prem (P C Katoch of Malkher Garh, Palampur, Himachal, a former academician, civil servant and Member HP Public Service Commission), post graduated in English literature in 1970 from Punjab University, Chandigarh. A widely published author, reviewer, critic and a keen stude3nt of Ancient Indian Literature, he has ten collections of poetry ( the latest is Yayati Returns & Other Poems ) seven novels and two collections of short fiction. A few significant works on criticism are: Contemporary Indian English Poetry from Himachal (edited 1992), English Poetry in India: A Comprehensive Survey of Trends and Thought-Patterns 2011, English Poetry in India: A secular Viewpoint (co-edited), Ten Poetic Minds in Indian English Poetry and Time and Continuity. Creative writings in Hindi include twenty novels, nine books on short fiction, one collection of poetry and criticism.

Folk literature constitutes psychological, cultural and philosophical areas of growth and development of a country and in the background wholesome ingredients of folklores and folktales stay to reflect on a country’s culture, ethos and heritage. India, with a scintillating variety enthrals everyone going into the depths of folklores and folktales making Indians exceptional in respect of behaviour, conduct and thought-pattern. If one analyses and evaluates folk literature at the regional level, it turns out an enriching experience. An amazing unity, subtle eloquence, apparently intrinsic inconsistencies reveal certain distinctive features of synthesis linking Indians to indissoluble whole.

A look at the folk literature of different regions despite variations in lingua franca, traditions, rituals and customs and cultural differences, conveys perennial truths in a spirit of harmony. A motivating intermingling of religion, myths and legends makes folk literature, a collection of tales and songs related to imagination and experiential life ever fresh and vibrant with the objective to warn, correct, educate and make man ethically strong. One discovers a unique blend of facts and truths about life through characters not of this world and yet having deep roots in earthly affairs if one turns to folk literature of northern states namely; Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh etc., One discerns some purpose and meaning behind each tale irrespective of its characters, size, locales and times, which speak eloquently of thought-patterns, ideas, feelings, customs, traditions, habits and cultural proclivities of people.

P.C.K. Prem’s volumes is the most recent of the folk tales published in two volumes. Readers would feel elated by reading these tales.

I. Some Selected Tales from Jammu & Kashmir:

1. The Life beyond
2. The Big and the Small
3. Puzzling Questions
4. A Devil in a Queen
5. A Wise Woman
6. A Charming Flower
7. A Matter of Soul
8. Divine Grace.

II. A Few Tales from Himachal

9. Lord Indra ( The Rain God )
10. A King and the Princesses
11. A Shepherd and his Mother
12. A Cat as Bride
13. A Parrot

III. Some Meaningful Tales from Punjab

14. A Brave Girl
15. A Question of Judgement
16. A Wise Bride
17. The Lord of Death

IV. Some Remarkable Tales from Hindi Regions

18. Charisma of a Princess
19. On the Riverside
20. A Unique Contest
21. The Sound of Drum
22. A Dreamy Feast
23. A Sister’s Worries

Surely all the twenty-three tales are stimulating and readable.

The tale Chameli and the mango tree narrates a pathetic tale of the girl who sought refuge in the secure lap of mother queen. The king patiently and carefully heard the tale. Profuse tears of remorse and repentance rolled down as he learnt how unkind and cruel he was to a faithful, loving and dedicated queen. With the grace and blessing of the lord, the royal union was an occasion of grand celebration. The king was penitent and very soon he restored the old status and glory to queen Rani and bestowed rightful status to the prince and princess in the affairs of the kingdom. The king forgave those, who brought misery and pains to him and to the devoted queen Rani. Thereafter, he governed the state justly and restored peace and harmony.

Evidently all the twenty-three-tales are intended for moralizing apart from producing fun and frolic. The shortest are the most impressive. A matter of Soul and Divine Grace and all the four Lord India (The Rain God, A Shepherd and his Mother, A Cat as a Bride and a Parrot in the tales from Himachal. In Part IV, the longest is Charisma of a Princess making the reader read it fast and faster.

Many of the tales from Himachal Pradesh are already known since they are from the Mahabharata, Shrimad Bhagavatam and from the Bhatti Vikramaditya, the greatly adored king of Ujjain. Of all the tales the best is A Unique Contest from the section “Tales from the Hindi(speaking) Region.

PCK Prem’s volume are the most recent about the folk tales in English. Readers would feel elated by being reminded of the many they heard of.

Both Sundaram and Prem have done great service to readers and both have a niche of his own in the Parthenon of our great writers and scholars.

Continued to “Of Folkloristics and Folk Lit and Folk Enthusiasts”


More by :  Dr. Rama Rao Vadapalli V.B.

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