Blog Post 12: Folk Tales in India and Bangladesh

I enjoyed both guest lectures this week, and want to discuss them both in this blog entry, because I learned a lot from both.  I knew hardly anything about India or Bangladesh before this week besides whatever I remembered from AP World History in high school.

On Tuesday, Dr. Mian presented a lecture called “Ruphotka,” which means beautiful words- basically, fairy tales.  It was interesting how fairy tales from Bangladesh are representative of the local environment, featuring hills, lush vegetation, monsoons, rivers and boat travel, tigers, and elephants.  As such, the tales from this culture say a lot about the experience of people from this culture.  It seems exotic to me, but that’s because I’m an American.

As with all of the folk and fairy tale traditions we’ve learned about so far, this one began in the oral tradition.  Ruphotkas originate from Sanksrit and Ceylon.  Common storylines include conflicts between good and evil and supernatural characters, which is typical, but there were some unique characteristics as well.  For example, the presence of an evil co-wife rather than the stepmother figure we’re used to seeing.  In addition, redemption wasn’t a prominent feature at all.

We read “Blue Lotus and Red Lotus,” which was really hard to understand until I read it a second time because the names were unfamiliar.

We watched this video in class, which was pretty awesome. It provides a decent summary of the story, but does leave out several plot points.

The important characteristics of this tale we discussed in class are as follows: The two brothers come back from death through eggs, which hearkens to reincarnation.  They push away dominating mother figures, and complete a quest victoriously, two common aspects of the tales we’ve previously studied, but again, there are differences.  Family is a very important aspect of these stories, and at the end, they restore their father’s health; normally, the father is seen as a competitor, or he dies.

The reading we did for Thursday’s class also showed a significance placed on family.  However, we did not discuss the Ramayana in class, but rather, Adivasis.  I can’t make this computer use the right characters, so these words are spelled incorrectly, technically. Adivasis are the first inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent- maybe not historically so, but that’s how they refer to themselves. Often, their lives are worse than those of the untouchables.

I particularly enjoyed all of Dr. Alles’s stories and photos.  I feel like I got a pretty accurate glimpse into a completely unfamiliar culture, and learned a lot from it.  He very clearly described some ritual processes and other contexts surrounding the tales we read in class.  Many of these tales were origin tales, such as how their liquor came into being.  One of the stories we read raised some interesting questions about gender, which of course is where my interests lie.

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