The lyric folk song in one form or another is found almost everywhere, but this is not true of narrative singing. Unless the reporting of the activities of preliterate cultures has been very faulty, it would seem that the combination of song and story among these peoples has been rare, in spite of a wealth of prose narrative. On the other hand, in major Western and Asian civilizations the narrative song has been important for a long time and has been cultivated by the most skillful singers.
In the course of time these songs of warfare, of adventure, or of domestic life have formed local cycles, such as the byliny of Russia or the heroic songs of many of the Balkan States and Finland or the ballad tradition of western Europe and elsewhere. Each of these cycles has its own characteristics, with its distinctive metrical forms, and its formulas both of events and expression.
Any reader of the Homeric poems will be aware of their essentially oral and musical nature, and all the early literary narratives of Sumer and the Middle East suggest a long previous development of narrative singing. A special tradition of tales told in song has arisen in Europe since the Middle Ages and has been carried to wherever Europeans have settled.
These ballads, in characteristic local metrical forms and frequently with archaic musical modes, are usually concerned with domestic or warlike conflict, with disasters by land or sea, with crime and punishment, with heroes and outlaws, and sometimes, though rarely, with humour. Despite a folk culture fast being overwhelmed by the modern world, these ballads are still sung and enjoyed. For a more detailed treatment of this subject, see folk music.
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Belonging only remotely to oral literature is folk drama. Dances, many of them elaborate, with masks portraying animal or human characters, and sometimes containing speeches or songs, are to be found in many parts of the preliterate world. Though the action and the dramatic imitation is always the most prominent part of such performances, these may be part of a ritual and involve speaking or chanting of sacred texts learned and passed on by word of mouth. The ancient Greek mysteries, as well as secret societies even down to the present, have retained this method of transmitting dramatically their traditions and their teachings and commentary.
Some dramatic rituals indeed were not secret but part of a public cult.
Thus in ancient Greece the feast of Dionysus led eventually to Classical Greek drama, and in the Middle Ages the dramatic celebrations of the Christian church developed into the medieval folk dramas and at long last into the literary drama of the Renaissance and later. Fables, whether of the well-known Aesop cycle , with animals acting according to their real natures, or those from India, where animals simply act as men and women, are literary in origin.
But they have had an important influence on folk literature.
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In addition to appearing in written collections, a number of these are told by storytellers in many parts of the world. In such narratives the borderline between folk literature and other literary expression is impossible to draw. You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience and security. Folk literature. Typology of folk tales. Folk tales are generally woven around supernatural, mythological, devotional, historical, and social topics Chettiar Physical and psychological manifestations, the appeasement of wicked spirits, horror situations, devils and evil spirits, human sacrifice and other strange features are the most common elements of folk tales.
The categories and examples of the features we encounter in folk tales are:. The presence of the uncanny in these stories generally seeks to illustrate the triumph of good over evil. The objects of folk tales are panoramic: they may be romantic, imaginative, humorous, based on local traditions, bizarre and might even protest against injustices committed in the past.
Universality and parallelism in folk tales. The paradigmatic foundation of an unreal world on real life surpasses the boundaries of any region. The primary features of most of the folk tales of different regions often coincide. In spite of varieties and local peculiarities, the folk tales of different regions share a common pattern. Stories about the genesis and origin of mankind, animal stories about the supposed cleverness of the jackal, the mischief of the crow and the royal magnanimity of the tiger are recounted throughout the world.
The life of a single sister among her seven brothers, the jealousy of a second wife, the villainy of an ogre, the simplicity of a scholar, the ultimate triumph of goodness and virtue, happiness after all trials, worries and deprivation, are some of the basic common features of folk stories not only in different parts of India but also in different countries of the world Chaudhury The similarities between the different elements of the folk tales of different regions were first noticed by Tylor and Lang, theorists of cultural evolution.
They developed a theory for explaining these characteristics, known as parallelism, arguing that several cultural elements evolve in parallel and almost simultaneously in different societies. The universal human psyche transcending the limits of time and geographical boundaries forms the most logical basis for explaining such similarities in the folk tales of different regions.
The essence of the universal psychic unity lies in a similar human response to his surroundings under similar socio-cultural conditions Prasad Non-verbal messages in folk tales.
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Generally balance in folk tales is achieved through underlying meaning and appeal. Different kinds of folk tales have different effects on people.
Years ago, when learning from written sources was less common, folk tales, with their hidden moral values and lesson, functioned as the promoters of personal development and socialisation of the people of India. Some of the morals and messages commonly found in folk tales are:. Folk tales include warnings, e. Below we present some folk tales of Bihar with comments as to the contents, characters, interpersonal relations, etc.
Once there was a poor low-caste man who eked out his living by hiring himself out as a field-labourer and by rearing pigs. The man had a daughter whose duty it was to drive pigs to the field.
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While grazingpigs one day on the full moon of an important festival, the girl saw a young Brahmin hurrying by. She was curious why he was almost running and asked him the reason. The Brahmin replied that he wanted to reach the river Ganges and bathe at the time of the full moon. The girl smiled and told him that he could not possibly reach the river Ganges in time, as the river was far away, but that she could solve his problem. The Brahmin wanted to know what she had in mind.
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The girl pointed to a dirty pool where her pigs were wallowing and told him that if he had real faith in his heart and if he had complete trust in her, he should dip into the pool, and she would bring about the exact auspicious moment of the full moon, and he, in turn, would earn all the merit of bathing in the Ganges. The Brahmin dived into the pool and found the bottom full of jewels and brought out a handful of them.
The girl wanted him to dive again and he did so once more. This time he found mud at the bottom.
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The girl then told him that he had got the reward he deserved for the implicit faith in his mind and his confidence in her. The astonished Brahmin was very attracted to the girl and proposed marriage. The girl blushed, but smilingly said that she could not marry without her father's consent. The Brahmin youth approached the father but the father did not wish to accept a high caste man. The young Brahmin was heart-broken at the refusal and threatened to commit suicide. The father was frightened of being responsible for the death of a Brahmin and reluctantly gave his consent.
The marriage was duly performed.
When the bride and groom were taking their leave, the father wanted to give a dowry. The girl told her husband secretly that he should only ask for a particular cow, a particular pig and a particular parrot. The poor man was taken aback at the son-in-law's request, but was obliged to grant the gifts asked for.
The bridegroom and the bride left the village. The parrot was not an ordinary bird. It had access to Lord Indra's court and visited it every day, bringing its mistress news of happenings in the court. The Brahmin boy and his wife lived very happily. One day the parrot brought the girl news that Indra had decided that in the approaching rain season there would be no rain anywhere in the districts except for on the barren hills and valleys of Rajgir.
Everywhere else there would be famine.
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