Sunday, April 22, 2012

Beautiful Words from Dr. Mian

Our tour of world folktales continued this week with two lectures from South Asia. On Tuesday, Dr. Shabbir Mian presented a lecture about tales from Bangladesh and on Thursday Dr. Alles spoke about fairytales from the Adivasis of India.

Dr. Shabbir Mian's presentation was entitled "Folk and Fairytales from Bangladesh." In Bangladesh, fairytales are known as Rupkotha or "beautiful words." Like the other folktales we have studied, the Rupkotha are part of an oral tradition. Accordingly, over time, the tales experience the same slight variations we have seen in other tales. Also similar to Western fairytales, these stories are full of life lessons. There are typical conflicts which contain a common theme in which virtue is rewarded. A slight difference, however, is that evil is consistently punished rather than forgiven.

Dr. Shabbir Mian also provided some cultural background to give us a context for the tales we were discussing. Dr. Mian showed pictures and spoke from his own experience living and visiting Bangladesh. He explained, for example, the influence of the tropical country and access to many bodies of water in shaping the environment of the tales.

Towards the end of the lecture, Dr. Mian showed a video production of the tale our class read- "Blue Lotus, Red Lotus." The video was actually rather shocking. It showed, vaguely graphically, a demon-mother eating her children, pulling them apart limb by limb. While a mother devouring her children really is not any more grotesque than the scenes of the original Western fairytales, it was certainly shocking to see it in video-adaption. As Americans, we are used to seeing only the "civilized" or "Disney-ized" versions of the tales reach the scene, so we never generally visualize the harsher realities of the tale.

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