Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Folktales from India

An arrogant courtesan of the king, proud of her intelligence, kept insisting that Tenali Ramakrishna tell her the Ramayana.

“How did a mere monkey like Hanuman burn the city of Lanka?” she asked.

Tenali Rama decided to teach her a lesson.

“Like this!” he said.

And burnt down her house.

(55, during the week. More 55 here: 1, 2, 3)

I was a fortunate kid. I always had a voracious appetite for folk tales, be it from any part of the world. And India is a treasure-trove of folk tales.

There are tales of the wise men; Birbal the wise, or Rama of Tenali, the shrewd Bengali Gopal or Maryada Rama the just. There is the immortal “Panchatantra”, and the “Jataka tales”, where animals talk, and men become fools. But all of this is just the merest tip of the iceberg of tales that our great-grandmothers collectively knew.

But I chanced upon Folktales from India a superb compilation of folktales edited by the wonderful A.K. Ramanujan.. Here he complies folktales from twenty-two Indian languages. There are little known tales in Gondi or Santhali, or fables from Kashmir and Rajasthan, or tales with little morals from Tamil Nadu or Karnataka. There are tales of Birbal or Gopal or Tenali Rama (this 55 tale is adapted from one of the tales in this very book).

And these are stories centered around men, about heroes or imbeciles. There are stories about women, where men are fools or rogues. There are stories about families. There are stories about Gods, but Gods are not fearsome, but easily outwitted by men and women. There are humorous tales about jesters or wits, and stories about animals and birds who miraculously fly or talk. There are even stories with stories in them!

An absolutely wonderful collection, and a fine addition to any home library, perfect to be read, or read out loud.

(ps: A small request to my readers who have blogrolled me. I would appreciate it if you changed the link to read “Balancing life” or just “Sunil” instead of my full name. It’s mostly for academic purposes, just so that my blog isn’t the first hit on google).


Michael Higgins said...

Hi Sunil
I made the change to my blogroll (in each place).

Excellent adaptation of a story to the 55 word format. You are a master of the art, no doubt.

This looks like an excellent compilation. Do you think it is written so a little boy could enjoy it?

Sunil said...

Michael, thanks for the update!

I would absolutely recommend it for a little boy. Especially if it is being read out to him. I wish I had this book read out to me when I was a little boy. The writing is very simple and elegant, and flows very well.

Anonymous said...

Until around a month ago, my blog was not the first result on Google if you typed in my name. But now, it is the first!

pippala leaf said...

Sunil..thank you. One more excellent book is being added to my collection.

Minal said...

Hey Sunil,
Thanks for the book reference. I was a fortunate kid. I always had a voracious appetite for folk tales, be it from any part of the world.
Applies the same here...
I have had an amazing collection thanks to my parents. Now in goes one more:-)

Minal said...

Oh ya changed the blogroll as per your request:-)

Iyer the Great said...

My appetite for folk tales was satisfied by the daily night Story Time with my father (where I used to decide on the cast of characers) and with my grandmother (during vacations). After I started reading these tales, I realized that folk tales are better listened to than read. That hasn't stopped me from reading them, and will certainly try to get a copy of this one.

Sunil said...

Vishnu....same here.....(at least, it wasn't 3 months ago. I checked again more recently......).

Madhu......i'm sure you'll enjoy it. Minal, you too, and thanks.

Rahul......folk tales really are better listened to than read. Only, no one reads them (or makes them up) to me now (too old?), so i satisfy myself reading them.

Anonymous said...

I would get the book just for the Birbal and Tenali Rama stories. All those Birbal ACK books more than made up for my non-story-telling grandmother.

Btw, do you know you can get all of Aesop's at Gutenberg?

Aditya Bidikar said...

Made the change.

Sunil said...

Srikanth....thanks for the gutenberg link. The whole point of this book was to introduce readers to less known tales, so there are just 3 Birbal stories, and 3 Tenali Rama stories, and 3-4 Gopal stories. The remaning 100 odd stories are far less know, often as enchanting, and from all corners of the country.

Aditya, many thanks!!

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