Tamil Folktales in Oral Tradition

 by Stuart Blackburn

Moral Fictions: Tamil Folktales in Oral Tradition

Would readers send us a few of their favorite Sri Lankan Tamil folktales for publication?sangameditor@hotmail.com

by Stuart Blackburn, edited by Lauri Honko

Moral Fictions. Tamil Folktales in Oral Tradition. (FF Communications 278.) By Stuart Blackburn. Ed. Lauri Honko. Helsinki: Academia Scientarum Fennica, 2001. Pp. 338. Index, bibliography, glossary, photos.

The book presents one hundred Tamil folktales recorded from oral tradition in 1995-96. The project deserves attention, for hitherto the folktale in India has not been adequately documented and has only rarely been the object of thorough analysis. Moreover, not until 1997 was there a full-length monograph interpreting
Moral Fictions

Indian folktales collected from oral performance. Hence, the author's main purpose in writing this book is to present a homogenous oral storytelling tradition in contemporary India.

The starting point of Stuart Blackburn's study on Tamil folk tales is the question: is fantasy the defining element in fairy tales? Having collected and analyzed over 300 tales, he concludes that although fantasy is present, at the core of the tales lies a moral vision in which wrongdoing, especially physical cruelty, is punished. Most of these tales conclude with the conventional wedding but not before they accuse, expose, summon, and punish those who lie, cheat, or mistreat others. In general, to the author's mind, the tales express a broader social consensus about desirable and undesirable behavior.

In selecting the tales for the book, the author has been guided first by the quality of the telling of the tale and, secondly, by the need for balance among the tales. The chapters of the book are based on real-life contexts


Posted January 3, 2004