Lecture Series "Unraveling Tales: Exploring Intersections between Folkloristics and Literature" - 8th July to 26th August 2021
In ancient India, rich in orature, the child was perceived as a mini-adult who was permitted to listen to all kinds of stories, no matter how bawdy, violent or terrifying they were. So pre-colonial times in India saw the child seated alongside the adult, listening to folktales, watching performances from epics like “The Ramayana” and “The Mahabharatha” and colonial times saw the child being given patriotic doses of ‘Indianness’. On the other hand, politically independent India in the second half of the 20th century saw the child being perceived as a separate entity who needed to be given sanitised literature in a palatable form. Towards the end of the 20th century, the synergy that existed in pre-colonial India between centuries-old oral narratives and comparatively nascent written literature, re-emerged in a new format—the picturebook. The influence of the oral on the written with regard to language, plot, structure, spontaneous improvisation and subversion lent vibrancy and a unique identity to the Indian picturebook—Indian not just in theme and content but also in form and design. Instead of a sanitised retelling of a folktale for the child, today’s picturebooks incorporate old tales in new ways, subverting them to portray contemporary times and the current worldview. This talk will focus on two picturebooks- “Under the Neem Tree” and “Ari”.