hipster Bengali knew those leaves before it was cool.

Dr. Shabbir Mian from the Physics department spoke on Tuesday on the Folk and Fairy Tales of Bangladesh.  I enjoyed his lecture simply because it gave me some insight to a culture so different from my own.  He told us that in Bengali, fairytales are called “rupkotha” or, literally translated, “beautiful words.”  I love this word because it is so descriptive to what fairytales are, especially for children: beautiful, whimsical, and enchanting stories.  He told us that in India and Bangladesh, folk and fairy tales are primarily transmitted orally, something similar to a lot of other cultures.  Furthermore, the ‘standard book’ of Bengali fairy tales, written in 1907, is the Thakurmar Jhuli: “grandmother’s bag”, which is also similar to a lot of other cultures, in that it is usually women telling stories to their families ( “old wive’s tales”).

Another similarity is the theme of transformation: Dr. Mian said that transformations are always occuring in Bengali fairy tales, and we saw and example, with Neelkamal and Lalkamal transforming into eggs after being eaten.  This is a common motif in fairy tales across many cultures that we have studied: there is the beast, the little boy in the juniper tree, just to name a few.

A difference, though, is the theme of reward and punishment.  In Bengali fairy tales, the good are rewarded and the bad are punished, period.  There is no forgiveness or redemption for the villian.  Though this is true for some other fairy tales that we’ve read (e.g. the witch in Hansel and Gretel, who gets cooked in her own oven), others have the Christian motif of redemption: the villian repents and is forgiven by the protagonist or redeemed by God.

Overall, I enjoyed Dr. Mian’s lecture immensely.  It was something new, and very interesting and insightful.


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