In last Thursday's class, Dr. Alles came as the guest speaker to discuss the tales and myths derived from India. He was very personable and throughout his discussion, he shed a new light on how different the tales from India were compared to the fairy tales we have discussed in class so far. I found his power point interesting- although the slides were less focused on direct tales, they gave a better visual picture of the culture and the importance of tradition in India.
Dr. Alles focused on stories from the Adivasi (‘first inhabitants’), who are the indigenous people of south Asia-primarily focused in Gujarat, India. In general, I found the tales her discussed very different to the predominantly European fairy tales the class has previously covered. In class we have covered the idea in which there are similar fairy tales from across the world, regardless of cross-cultural influences.
It seems as though Indian tales do not follow this idea. They seem disconnected to the European tales; instead Indian tales maintain literal locations and referencing actual points in history within the story. This is not the case in stories such as Little Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, etc. Such European tales focus on more fictitious locations and vague points in history, because the location and point in time are nearly irrelevant to the purpose of the tale (excluding the use of an unnamed forest or travel route).
The stories discussed in class were not as entertaining or focused on a moral to be learned. Instead, it focused more on referencing the cultural importance of the land. Tales such as the Babo Tundvo does not have a point; instead it emphasizes the importance of the large mountains to the people, the religious beliefs of the people, and a sense of the culture’s material resources.
Another example of how Indian stories do not focus on trying to teach the listener a moral or guide to over come unconscious dilemmas (like the European tales) was the class reading about Rama in the Ramayana. In this story, it infers many cultural aspects and ways in which to behave within their specific culture of India. It references the funeral rights of a man (needing the first born son to lead the funeral rights), and the character Rama giving up his sandals in order to show freedom of obligations. Despite the tale portrayed as factual, it depicts human-like monkeys that aid the protagonist of the story as if it is not odd to believe in a monkey-human race along side human beings.
Over all, I found that learning about tales from India opens the idea of fairy tales I have even further; seeing that many stories may not have the same purpose (teaching a moral lesson or aiding an unconscious dilemma), it yields the same importance to people’s lives. These tales are just as valuable to how one behaves/views life as a fairy tale on the other side of the world.