Folktales and Their Benefits for Children

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     Longbir Engti
Sankur Anglong, Diphu

A folktale is an anonymous, traditional story passed down verbally long before it was written down. Folktales include animal stories, tricksters, fairy tales, legends, myths and tall tales. These are stories passed on generations to generations, usually by word of mouth. Folktales can sometimes be retold in different versions in different cultures. The original storyteller is unknown and we will never come to know the original author. Folk tales can involve animals, wishes, magic, trickery, fairy tales and often the mystical meanings of numbers also.

Stories that have been passed down for hundreds of years can still survive by being retold again and again. Magic, imaginary creatures and talking animals can be included in folktales. For Example -The Lion and the Rat. Folktales consist of mainly traditional oral narratives which include legends, proverbs, jokes, music and stories which belong to a particular culture, tribe or social group. Most folk stories are aspirations of the majority of people in the society and are used to transmit and preserve cultural values of the group. Folktales come under the genre of ‘Folklore’. The meaning of the term folklore is so interesting in its own right.

‘Folk’ in general means ‘the people’ and ‘Lore’ means to study about human culture and the activities of their daily lives. The word ‘folk-lore’ was first introduced by the English antiquarian William John Thoms in England on August 22, 1846, when he sent a letter to the Athenaeum magazine. He was very keen to understand what folklore is. However before Thoms’ introduced the word folklore, the German also used the word ‘Volkskunde’, which is similar to the studies of folklore in 1812.By then German philologists had started observing the lives of the lower class people very closely. Then in 1812 the German Brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published volumes of oral folk narratives and interpretations of Germanic mythology. The word ‘Folklore’as one wordwas introduced finally by Alan Dundes.

Folktales are universal and enhance globalization of cultural knowledge. The natures of Folk Tales are that they are not about gods or the origins of the world. They are told primarily for entertainment during leisure times. These are not taken as truthful or factual by their audience. The characters are ordinary humans and personified animals. Humans are peasants or other people from lower classes, and are frequently portrayed as having better values than the rich and powerful. Folktales are told in a very simple style. Each character represents one human trait usually, one dimensional, like greed, curiosity, kindness or even evil. Magic and enchantment play a key role. The themes are also very simple in folktales.

Themes like rewarding of goodness, punishment of evil, and exposing a fool are very common. Trickster tales are comical and point out human weaknesses found in most culture. A smart person or animal outwits or take advantage of a fool. Through folktales the elderly people tell stories to children, and their main purpose is to instruct and to impart morality. Through the folktales, children get knowledge of fantasies, a glimpse of morality, their traditions and customs, social and civic values. For them, folktales arerecognized as a source of learning. People also like to tell fantasy stories to children in order to grow their power of imagination, and encourage creative thinking. In every culture of the world, we find long traditions of oral story telling. From these stories children can learn about their own culture and later transmit their own culture to the generations to come. After all, the folktales as stories themselves are very entertaining. Folktale is also told in order to educate children into cultural values of the society as well as give them motivation and a sense of well-being. In stories where small animals seem to beat the odds and overcome bigger ones both physically and mentally, the children learn the important lesson that anybody is able to achieve great things in society no matter how small or different they may be. For example story – ‘The Elephant and the Ant’.

Among the Karbis’ folktales, there are two very popular characters. The first one isthe Jangreso – an orphan boy, who is always smart and often triumphs in his endeavours. The other character is Bokolapo – the fool. Proverbs and phrases are also coined from these stories. For example – “Bokolapo lapen angti kapatu.” – meaning any foolish act referring to the story of how the Bokolapo tried to hide his salt in a pond so that no one can ask for a share. As we all can guess, the salt dissolved in the water and vanished away, portraying his foolishness. By listening to these folktales children can understand the civic values and moral senses.

Children are very curious to listen to these folktales from the elderly. They always love to hear the interesting stories. Most of the children like to imagine and visualize the stories while listening to the folktales, especially the fairy tales and frightening stories. Some of the folktales will be remembered and survive, whereas some will be forgotten, based upon their interests. However, in today’s generation children hardly listen to stories from their elder, because they are living in the digital era. So they mostly see, listen or read folktales from T.V channels, the internet, and radio or from books. If folktales or stories are retold again and again, then they will not be forgotten by them. Because of this remembrance, some of the stories will reflect in the psychology and character of the children. For example, while playing if they get into mischief, they will remember the morals of the bad ending stories.Moral tales with positive outcomes motivate children to be honest. It also saves them from danger. Like by remembering the stories, the children may not go into dark places. If a child heard the Shiva story in their childhood from their father several times, then some of the children may start worshipping him. That is why folktales really impact the children’s character.

Therefore, traditional folk stories have a great significance in the system of modern education. Storytelling has more benefits as an effective method of instruction, because it involves many mediums of communication. Stories broaden the knowledge of the children in their cultural beliefs and activities, and storytelling also establishes good relationships among pupils and their story tellers. We have to remember that all these folktales were literature developed originally from oral traditions, and that most people in human history had no writing system to record their languages and stories. These are some of the oldest forms of living culture and literature that we still have today. Storytelling is still alive as an oral tradition in many places. Thus folklore works well when teaching oral skills, speech drama and social values. Folktales in children’s literature are values for sharing indigenous and local culture, which can easily vanish in the midst of urbanization and globalization.

Traditional a primary reason for publishing folktales is for preserving the ethnographic, multicultural tradition of the world. It is very important that folktales need to be preserved as historical artefacts for their importance in enduring and employing moral and social-cultural values, as well as cultural tolerance and accepting the ‘other’ too.