I found Dr. Alles' talk on folk tales of the Adivasis people of India to be truly fascinating a look at a culture whose tales are completely unique from the others we have studied thus far this semester. Beyond the stories, this talk gave an interesting look into another culture and how one can learn about a culture by looking at its stories, and at the same time learn more about its stories simply by looking at the culture.
|Several Adivasis people participating in a ritual celebration.|
On particularly interesting story was a creation story that gave an explanation for the creation of alcohol. This story was quite interesting in that it could never have taken place in a Judeo-Christian-Islamic culture because it centered around the fallibility of gods. In Judeo-Christian-Islamic religions, not only are gods all-powerful but they are all-knowing and just about in every way perfect, and to perhaps think that god made a mistake or could not do something is considered blasphemy. Meanwhile, humans are distinctly seen as fallible, and the idea of a human without flaw is seen as equally blasphemous. This story would have made no sense to these people, because god was out-smarted by a mortal.
Another interesting story was The Tigress and the Bullock. Was I found unique about this story was how much the “good” and “evil” characters switched throughout the story. At first the cow is evil, because he is a pest to his master, then the cow and tigress are good for helping each other and deciding to go against their nature and work together, then the tigress is evil for eating the cow, then the babies are both good for rejecting the parents, then the baby cow turns evil by testing the friendship and finally the baby tiger turns evil by basically killing everyone. As you can see, the line between good and evil is very complicated but its always there, yet shifting. This is in contrast to most fairy tales where there are clear “good” or saintly characters interacting with clear “evil” or devilish characters, again stemming from the Judeo-Christian-Islamic notion of pure evil. This is even in contrast to Hans Christian Anderson's work which is often void of an evil character, as there are definitely evil characters in this story, their identities are just non-static.
In all, I believe these stories don't just give us an interesting look at stories from a new culture that we are not familiar with, but also help teach us more about the stories we are familiar with. By looking at what is different in these stories, we can see which values and motifs are culturally relevant to us or at least to our cultures at the time these stories were written. They show us what is unique about are stories by showing us what is unique about theirs.