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Folklore’s Contemporaries; Dynamics of Burhi Aai’r Xadhu, 2022

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Since the colonial era, Assamese folklore in the form of tales narrated to young children to make them fall asleep has been carried over from one generation to the other. If not the whole folklore story but even small details of them remain fresh in the minds till the present date. Although the folklore stories of Lakshminath Bezbora’s collection of Burhi Aai’r Xadhu, Koka Deuta, and Nati Lora were published back in the 1820s, some of the writings reflect the present-day mindset even today. 

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Set in the backdrop of almost more than 30 to 40 years back, some of the ideologies regarding women for instance have not changed even today. 

It is a sad reality to be with, in the first place. But the impact these folklore tales have on our life has been magnificent. The present society is now so much involved with themselves that narrating tales and talking to their children has become a ‘task’ for many parents. 

The folklore stories which were earlier narrated by the grandparents right before a child goes off to sleep remind the child of good and evil and truth and lies. Now even the Children’s Stories are available on YouTube which no doubt has helped many young parents to adapt to new changes but has also changed the very notion of listening to a tale and slowly dozing off on the laps of your grandmother. 

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4 Amazing Folklore Stories with Morals

SILONI’R JIYEK’OR XADHU or The Story of the Kite’s Daughter 

The story of Siloni’r Jiyek or the story of the kite’s daughter depicts some of the concepts which are still prevalent in today’s date. 

The beginning of the folklore story tells us how a father longs for a son to carry forward his pottery tradition. This ideology is very common in the patriarchal society of India. 

The story revolves around the very idea of a mother’s love, who may or may not be biological. But the love of a mother is unconditional. Aai’s birth mother sacrifices her love for her daughter by sending her away to keep her safe. The kite can also be said to be Aai’s mother in disguise. She raised her along with her babies and protected her from all evils. She was delicately placed in a nest and was given all sorts of necessities starting with a comb, silk cloth, lipstick, and mirror. The small minute details of the story highlight the unconditional love of a mother. 

The folklore story delicately focuses on the idea of marriage from a women’s perspective, of how a woman is made to marry off to someone who is ‘settled’ and ‘well established’. In this case, the merchant bears the image of a ‘settled man’ having seven wives. Although the merchant loved Aai, her stepsisters did not like her and caused trouble in her married life, by constant plotting and scheming against her. 

Aai finally realizes that since the merchant behaved in a particular way with his other wives, he could do the same with her, if he decides to remarry. 

The story finally comes to a full circle after Aai learns the skill of pottery herself. The folklore story brings out the irony of how her father abandoned her in the belief that a girl would not be able to carry forward his tradition.

KOTA JUA NAAK KHARONI DI DHAAK: A Tale of Put kharoni on your chopped-off nose

This story has somewhat a different storyline from the previous one. 

The story begins with an orphan daughter-in-law of a king. The King had seven sons and thus seven daughters-in-law. Rani who was the orphan was the youngest amongst all. 

In the beginning, the story gives us an idea of how Rani was looked after. She was kept in a protective bubble with no knowledge of good and evil. This is something that must be highlighted, as many parents have this notion that keeping their children in a safe bubble with no experience will help them stay away from danger. 

But, isn’t it the case that until a child doesn’t fall, how will he be able to stand up on his own. 

You will have to let the child be on their terms so that they can learn and grow. 

Here, since Rani was brave enough she did not hesitate to take a step and got away from the clutches of the thief who had decided to marry her. 

Eventually, the folklore story ends with the thief’s nose being chopped off for eve’s dropping. As a result of his act, Rani applied Kharoni to his open wound so that he suffers in pain.

Therefore, this coming-of-age story of a princess saving herself can be depicted as somewhat a naive princess coming to terms with the harsh reality of life.  Thus, the story also gives us an idea of how a woman can stand tall and fight her odds even if her ‘prince’ does not come to save her.

TEJA ARU TULA; A Tale of Two Sisters Undone by Fate

Teja and Tula is a tale or myth that is based on the experiences of a group of people or a society and is deeply ingrained in their customs and culture. This folklore narrative is fundamentally a typically Assamese story with a powerful moral theme or message. 

In the story of Tula and Teja, the stepmother has caused them a lot of problems. Teja was defrauded by her stepsister and transformed into a small bird, Maina by her stepmother.

The younger wife can be seen pushing the elder into the water while mumbling, “As a giant tortoise can you stay” and she becomes a tortoise. 

Jealousy was the root of all of the circumstances. Folk people occasionally encounter their difficult life moments while drawing inspiration from these tales. Before justice, injustice is a passing state. The folk society holds the phrase “Truth must come clearly before us; nobody can conceal” to be a fundamental principle. 

The moving folklore story of “Tula and Teja” is an illustration of a mother’s unwavering devotion to her children in the face of all obstacles. The young wife or stepmother of the young children covertly throws their mother into a pond in the story, the cruelty of a woman on the “brink” of revenge.

Once more, the dalim, or “pomegranate plant,” that was given to the King by a brother in exchange for his sister’s hand in marriage, stands for devotion and love.

Later, when Teja’s “paternal possessions” strangely follow her as she leaves her paternal home, this can be interpreted as a metaphor for a home being stripped of its wealth, prosperity, and peace when the Lakshmi of the household (according to Hindu belief) departs in dissatisfaction or is subjected to cruel treatment at her paternal home.

“Tula and Teja” are examples that can also be interpreted as allegories of “choice,” in which the victims are expected to prove themselves by making the right choices, which are symbolic in themselves, or as allegories of how women themselves are represented as the enemies of their own kind.

This might also be interpreted as a metaphor for a woman’s compulsive and performative societal and family commitments, without which her fate is sealed and she is forced to live in the degrading margins, as is still the case in our society today.

BANDOR ARU XIYAL: The Monkey and The Fox

In the folklore story “Monkey and the Fox,” the cunning monkey deceives both the passerby and his fox friend by subtly breaking their previous agreement to split the wealth.

Instead, the monkey, who is relaxing on a tree, mockingly drops “banana peels” on his friend one by one. He does this to show how trusting the wrong person can be fruitless and “slippery,” as well as to enjoy the actual and symbolic rewards of his cunning tactics.

The deceptive monkey gives his friend sugarcane fibers that have been chewed and “wasted,” symbolizing the fox’s “wasted efforts” after being properly tricked. However, the monkey does not stop there.

The monkey further insults the fox by dropping an empty cylinder and an earthen jar on his head after licking the last drop of milk, which suggests that his expectations would be dashed by the sad blow of fate. 

The fox, in turn, makes the monkey attack a bee hive by telling him it is a royal drum. The monkey, at once leap at the hive without even thinking what it really was. His motive was to outdo the fox and know very well he could acquire something that the fox would only wish to have.

The symbolism of the monkey and the fox is similar to human parts used in Assamese households for a very long time in this specific tale, one of false friendship!

The folklore story’s outcome was the monkey’s tragedy. The narrative was truly about how humans can be just as smart and devious as animals, and how this may lead to us becoming irrational and brutal. The story serves as a warning to stay away from bad people and to always be aware of the company one keeps. It is clear from the stories that both men and women have various natures and characteristics, and that the talking animals and birds that resemble humans also symbolize aspects of human nature.

Why Folklore is More Than Just Fantasy stories

All of these folklore short stories have underlying themes or messages that reflect the fundamental principles we want to instill in our children from an early age. 

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These folklore stories emphasize the essential qualities of honesty, integrity, respect, kindness, gratitude, compassion, and charity, among others. The setting of these stories is the Utopian world we always dream of, where after all the evil and upheaval has passed, life becomes perfect. The best thing about all these stories is that there is always hope; no matter how much the protagonists go through, there is always a wonderful happy ending. I held all of these characters’ principles in such high regard that I could nearly picture myself. That is what makes this book wonderful and beautiful.

Burhi Aair Xadhu is the best work of Folklore Assamese children’s fiction because of its cheerful endings and strong message. This book, at least for me, helped make my childhood magical. I felt almost empathetic for the characters in each narrative since it touched my vulnerable heart. I didn’t understand this emotion when I was younger, but looking back, I can see how big of an influence these tales had on me.

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