The contents of this section are actually
from a compilation from the late nineteenth century (the book I am using is
a recent reprint). It contains 22
folk-tales of Bengal -- which was, back then, present Bangladesh and West
Bengal state of India joined together. The compilation is made by Rev. Lal
Behari Day, a Bengali Christian preacher. He is relatively unknown for his
works, firstly because he translated the tales in English, evidently for his
English patrons - a venture not really necessary for Bengali-speaking
people! And furthermore, it was the age of Renaissance for Bengali
literature, no one would really heed for any English work done in Bengal! Later on, prominent
professor of Bengali Dr. Dinesh Chandra Sen and linguist Dr.
Muhammad Shahidullah collected folk tales from all over Bengal and made
several compilations. Some of the tales are still told by Bengali mothers to
their children in the evening-time.
However, the purpose of choosing this
particular book is to give non-Bengali-speakers the taste of Folk Tales from
Bengal. It is not that there were not other English translations, but as
this one was published first in 1883 gives me the feeling that it, having
been collected from a completely rural environment, should be less distorted and contain more ancient elements, which might not be found
today. Most of the Bengali compilations today, made mainly for children,
also seem to be abridged and more distorted, more or less due to urban
Although I would expect everyone to read
this for pure pleasure, there are other things to note, too! Folk tales are
the most ancient tales of a people, they are transmitted by oral tradition
from generation to generation. As a result, we find traces of ancient
elements in these. Folk tales from different nations have bases in their
national history, forgotten customs, etc. So, they are indeed important from
the anthropological point of view -- implying they are not 100% fictitious!
For example, tales of Bengal can be connected to tales from as distant a
place as Lithuania or Germany. Any Bengali-speaking person is acquainted
with the phrase -- 'Hau mau khau / Manusher Gondho Paun',
meaning would be something like the Shakespearean phrase 'Fi Fie Fo Fum /
I smell the blood of an Englishman.' These are in fact the same
expressions. These connections are not the least co-incidental! These common
traits have remained in the tales from the times when the ancient human
communities, of whom Indo-Europeans are an example, got separated and
settled in different places. Many mythological creatures, as well as
religious characters, have also been transmitted in this manner.
Okay, that's enough!! Get along and enjoy!!
In addition to the notes given in the book
itself, I will add notes of my own where necessary.