INTRODUCING AND CLASSIFYING MIZO FOLKTALES
(Presented by Lalrinmawii Tochhawng, Sr. Lecturer in English, Govt. T.Romana College, Aizawl & Ph.D. Scholar,Dept. of English, SOH, IGNOU at the National Seminar on ‘Traditions of Folk in Literature’, IGNOU,August 30 & 31, 2010)
people trace their origin to
a crevice within the earth literallymeaning ‘closed stone’. Based on the rich oral tradition that has been passed on from father toson through many generations, they believe their forefathers emerged from this fissure incouples to populate the earth. Although the ‘A, Aw, B’, the Mizo alphabet was framed only inthe 19
century by Welsh missionaries, the oral tradition, in the absence of a written language,had given the Mizo his identity, origin and history.The folktale comprises a large body of this oral tradition. A problem arises in definingfolktales because there is a continuing debate about the relationship between various forms of traditional literature, identified as folktales, myths, legends and fables. While some scholarsaccept the different forms as types of the folktale, some others regard the forms as distinct butoverlapping. It may be best at this point to accept the lines of demarcation between the variousforms as existing, yet difficult to clearly define. In the Mizo language, ‘thawnthu’ is the termgiven to all forms of traditional narrative making the distinction even more complicated.However, in this study, I have only included traditional narratives that feature elements commonto folktales although some may verge on the legendary or mythical.
After the pioneering work of Stith Thompson and Antii Aarne in the early 20
century,folktales are now arranged in international catalogues according to the motifs or themes in them, by numbers, titles and summaries of the content. Despite many criticisms, the A-T numbers have proved to be practical tools in the study of folktales. Clear-cut divisions are impossible and thereare obvious cases of overlapping but the tale-type index remains popular and folktales arecategorised into sets on the basis of their similarities. It should be kept in mind, though, thattales are continually shifting function and definition as the folk migrate, mingle and change beliefs. A story earlier accepted as explanatory may survive as fancy and is therefore well-accepted that the “
definition of any folktale depends on its function in a society and the way thenarrator and the audience think of it at the time of performance.
Salient Features of the Mizo Folktale:
Mizo folktales have been told mainly for the purpose of entertainment and much of their dissemination has been through the telling of tales to children. In the process, the oral tales haveserved to preserve tradition and history and have been vehicles for education. The generalelements that go into the making of the Mizo folktale can be summarised as follows:a)Setting: In most Mizo folktales, the time is quickly set in the introduction with thewords,
‘Hmanlai hian mawm’
(A very long time ago). This establishes the tale ashistory, or as a story that has actually happened at one point of time, a time that isundetermined or unspecified. Place is usually generalised as one village or a certainforest. Very rarely is the place named in the folktales. However, there are now many places named after characters in these tales and believed to have been the actualsettings for important episodes although the tales themselves make no mention of these locations.
The Mizo people are the people inhabiting Mizoram and spread over other hill states in North East India. They are made up of different sub-tribes, the most dominant of which are the ‘Lusei’ or ‘Lushai’.
"Folktales," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopaedia 2006http://encarta.msn.com