A06111 Folklore - An Introduction

Folklore literature is a very important facet of the history of Tamil literature. This lesson introduces its special qualities.

Of the four central units, the first one explains folklore, describes Tamil folks and presents the recordings of folksongs. In the second unit you will learn about folklore literature and folk arts. People of Tamil rural areas and their usage of words are discussed in the third unit. Oral and written literature forms the subject of the fourth unit.

The term, Folk generally refers to people neither primitive nor the civilised elite. They are often illiterate, rural and of the lower social stratum. Lore, the second part of the subject, floklore, refers to the collection of tradition and information held by these people. In Tamil it is called Naattu Padayal, Nattar Vazhakaattiyal or Nattupuraviyal. The unique qualities of this literature are oral, traditional, anonymous, in different versions and formalized. The rural people with sweet voice used to record in their minds these songs.

Folklore literature comprises songs, stories, strory-poems, proverbs, riddles and mythology. Folk songs are lullaby, children’s songs, love songs, work songs, festival songs, devotional songs, death songs, and other kinds called Panimalar Paadalkal. Folk stories are concerned with humans, animals, magic, gods, mythology, and multi-meaning. Folk story-poems or ballads are structured as four parts called prayer, teacher worship, history and good wishes. Proverbs are the essence of the knowledge and experience of the traditionally rural people, classified on the basis of size, subject, alphabet, structure or function. Riddles can be folk riddles or literary ones. Myths can be classified into great mythological works, structured stories of life’s principles, caste-based works, Thala Puraanam or history of places, based on ethics and morals. For the Tamil folks, belief is said to be a third hand. Folk arts can be social or religious as Cilampaattam or Devaraattam. There are twenty nine types of folk arts. Folk crafts are made of raw materials like earth, paper, wood, grass, metals, stories, yarn and agricultural products of paddy and cardamom.

The rural people are called Nattaar in Tamil. The great Tamil dictionary gives as meanings of Nattaar the words like Thecathaar, Mahacanam, Nattaanmaikaarar, caste people like

Oral and written forms of folk literature are creations before and after the advent of printing. Oral traditon is, however, considered as the original source.

Thus, on learning this lesson you will understand all about folk literature, folk people and oral literature preceding written literature.