Mondays on the Dark Night of the Moon: Himalayan Foothill Folktales

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Oxford University Press, 1997 - Business & Economics - 262 pages
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Oral tales establish relationships between storytellers and their listeners. Yet most printed collections of folktales contain only stories, stripped of the human contexts in which they are told. If storytellers are mentioned at all, they are rarely consulted about what meanings they see in their tales. In this innovative book, Indian-American anthropologist Kirin Narayan reproduces twenty-one folktales narrated in a mountain dialect by a middle-aged Indian village woman, Urmila Devi Sood, or "Urmilaji." The tales are set within the larger story of Kirin Narayan's research in the Himalayan foothill region of Kangra, and of her growing friendship with Urmilaji Sood. In turn, Urmilaji Sood supplements her tales with interpretations of the wisdom that she discerns in their plots. At a moment when the mass-media is flooding through rural India, Urmilaji Sood asserts the value of her tales which have been told and retold across generations. As she says, "Television can't teach you these things."
These tales serve as both moral instruction and as beguiling entertainment. The first set of tales, focussing on women's domestic rituals, lays out guidelines for female devotion and virtue. Here are tales of a pious washerwoman who brings the dead to life, a female weevil observing fasts for a better rebirth, a barren woman who adopts a frog and lights ritual oil lamps, and a queen who remains with her husband through twelve arduous years of affliction. The women performing these rituals and listening to the accompanying stories are thought to bring good fortune to their marriages, and long life to their relatives. The second set of tales, associated with passing the time around the fire through long winter nights, are magical adventure tales. Urmilaji Sood tells of a matchmaker who marries a princess off to a lion, God splitting a boy claimed by two families into two selves, a prince's journey to the land of the demons, and a girl transformed into a bird by her stepmother.
In an increasingly interconnected world, anthropologists' authority to depict and theorize about distant people's lives is under fire. Kirin Narayan seeks solutions to this crisis in anthropology by locating the exchange of knowledge in a respectful, affectionate collaboration. Through the medium of oral narratives, Urmilaji Sood describes her own life and lives around her, and through the medium of ethnography Kirin Narayan shows how broader conclusions emerge from specific, spirited interactions. Set evocatively amid the changing seasons in a Himalayan foothill village, this pathbreaking book draws a moving portrait of an accomplished woman storyteller. Mondays on the Dark Night of the Moon offers a window into the joys and sorrows of women's changing lives in rural India, and reveals the significance of oral storytelling in nurturing human ties.

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Mondays on the dark night of the moon: Himalayan foothill folktales

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Narayan (anthropology and South Asian studies, Univ. of Wisconsin; Love, Stars and All That, LJ 9/15/93) has produced a unique volume of folktales from a village in the foothills of the Himalayas. The ... Read full review


Mondays on the Dark Night of the Moon
The Five Days of Fasting
The Thunder Thread
Divining Destiny and Rebirth
Treachery Separation and Reunion
A Note on Translation

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Page 253 - Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990).
Page 251 - Robert C. Holub, Reception Theory. A Critical Introduction (London and New York: Methuen, 1984). parable and narrative.53 Within the "world", as in Heidegger's "worldhood...
Page 252 - Lila Abu-Lughod, Writing Women's Worlds: Bedouin Stories (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993); and Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestizo (San Francisco: spinsters/aunt lute, 1987).
Page 251 - For an early anthropological statement on the important of audience response, see Melville Jacobs, The Content and Style of an Oral Literature: Clackamas Chinoo\ Myths and Tales (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1959).

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About the author (1997)

Kirin Narayan, Associate Professor of Anthropology and South Asian Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is an anthropologist, folklorist, and novelist. She is author of Storytellers, Saints and Scoundrels: Folk Narrative in Hindu Religious Teaching, which won the 1991 Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing and shared the Elsie Clews Parsons Prize for Folklore. She is also author of Love, Stars and All That, a novel about South Asian Americans.

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