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Chapter 1

Folklore and Literature

1.1 : Introduction:

“Folklore comprises traditional creations of people, primitive and civilized. These are

achieved by using sounds and words in metric form and prose and include also folk

beliefs and superstitions, customs and performances, dances and plays.” (Balys, 1959:


The concept of folklore has changed over the years. It is a long way from its emergence

as a new field of learning in the nineteenth century when antiquarians in England and

philologists in Germany began to take interest in the popular literature of the common

mass. In 1812 the German brothers Jacob and Wehelm Grimm published influential

volumes of oral folk narratives and interpretation of German mythology, which paved

the ways of further interest in this field.

The term folklore is derived from old English “folc” and “lar” meaning wisdom of the

folk. This term comes to British academic discourse in 1846, when William Thomas

proposed it in a letter to “The Athenaneum” to replace such labels as popular antiquities

and popular literature. Now folklore has developed as one of the important social

sciences. As currently used folklore has two dimensions-

(1) The mass of the unrecorded traditions of people as they appear in popular

creative work (oral), custom and belief, magic and ritual.

(2) The science which proposes to study these materials.

Thus the word folklore is used for both the body of traditions and the science studying

it. In its current meaning folklore includes myths, legends, folktales, jokes, proverbs,

riddles, chants, charms, blessings, curses, oaths, insults, retorts, taunts, teases, tongue-

twisters, greeting and leave-taking formulas. It also includes folk costume, folk dance,

folk drama, folk arts, folk belief, folk medicine, folk instrumental music, folk song, folk

similes etc.

The supporters of folklife studies maintain that folklife embraces the whole panorama of

traditional culture, including al folklore. The matters that occupy the study of folklores

can be classified according to R.M. Dorson’s most accepted four divisions.

The first among these four large groupings is oral literature. This aspect of folklore is

also called “verbal art” and expressive literature. Under this group falls a spoken, sung

and voiced form of traditional utterance that shows repetitive patterns. One subdivision

of it is folk narrative. Folk narrative includes genres like myth, legend and folktale.

Another major subdivision is folk song or folk poetry. Certain brief genres of oral

expression are classed as proverbs and riddles. Folk speech and folk language is also

included this sector because it is also a vehicle of oral literature. Different forms of

prose and verse narratives and other genres of oral literature is expressed through

language or speech which is not always similar to standard language. Folk speech has

the uniqueness in its independent development through oral circulation. The

grammatical, pronunciation and other features of folk speech are not always hard and

fast as standard language. Every society has own folk speech with a distinct vocabulary

which never enters the standard language. (Dorson, 1972: 59)

Next sector is physical folklife generally called material culture. Material culture is

related to techniques, skills, recipes and formulas transmitted across the generation and

subject to the same forces of conservative tradition and individual variation. How men

and women in tradition oriented societies build their houses, make their clothes, prepare

their food, fashion their furniture, utensils are the questions that concern material


The next sector is related to other important aspects of traditional life. This area is called

“social folk custom.” It is concerned with many community and family observance and

with “rites de passage” as birth initiation, marriage and death. These customs are often

closely bound up with folk beliefs which are another important folklore genre. Customs

with magical and sacred potency are known as rituals. Another social folk custom

related to public performances and entertainments is festival and celebrations. The

religious aspects of social folk custom are called folk religion which covers the modes

of worship that lie outside the established modes of worship. Folk medicines are also

included in this group where miracle makers save souls and heal bodies. The spectrum

of folk medicine practitioners extends from these users of invocations and secret charms

to many outstanding discoveries. Certain games and recreations, pastimes with

traditional base are also included in this sector.

The fourth sector of folklore is called performing folk arts. Here we discuss primarily

traditional music, dance and drama. While the rendition of folklore or a folk song is

now usually referred to as performances. Folk musical instruments, dance costumes and

scenario props are also included here. The genres of performing arts intersect with each

other and often appear in conjunction.

The four divisions are not all inclusive or mutually exclusive. They complement each
other in a society.

1.2 Folklore and Literature:

The relationship between folklore and literature is much discussed field of interest in

folklore research. Folklore is composed and transmitted orally, while literature is

predominantly composed in writing and also transmitted through reading and writing.

These two traditions have intermingled and influenced each other. In his famous essay

“Verbal art” Bascom refers to two distinct dimensions of the relationship between

folklore and literature. One he calls “literary adaptation” of folklore in which the

utilization of materials of folklore can be found in the writings of established writers.

Bascom gives the example of famous American novelist Mark Twain. Another

dimension is those instances where materials from written or printed sources have been

incorporated into verbal traditions and in course of time have been re worked and

modified. These he calls “Folklorization”. Bascom also comments in detail about the

differences and similarities between literature and verbal art.

The subject of folklore in literature has come well in to the forefront in the 20th century.

We can cite the example of the English faculty lecture of Cambridge in 1974, where Dr.

Derek Brewer lectured on “The Interpretation of Dreams, Folklore and Romance”

highlighting the relationship between folklore and literature. While, though another

lecture “towards a Chaucerian poetic” he unveils the importance of folk tradition in the

works of 14th century English poet Chaucer. It has long been customary to search for

information about Folklore in literature. Beowulf’s Dragon, Fairy lore in Shakespeare’s

comedies, the hobby horse in Jacobean drama, the Skimmity Riding in Hardy’s Mayor

of Casterbridge are some common examples of folk elements in English Literature. But

new roads seem to be opening in the study of relationship between folklore and

literature. In an article on “some implications of Chaucer’s Folklore and literature”

published in 1965, Francis Utley comments, “in the light of great new advances in

literary history and the study of folk narrative; it is time for a renewed attempt to help

these two disciplines joint force.”

There is also an increasing interest in analyzing certain works of literature from

mediaeval period to modern times, to observe how folklore motifs and folk beliefs, folk

customs and folk songs and dances may be woven, instinctively or deliberately into the

texture of a creative work, enlarging its scope and giving its significance and power.

Certain patterns, oral tradition, motifs or symbols basic to folklore continue to be used

by many great writers. A new recognition of how knowledge of folklore motifs can

influence literature has been attempted.

H.R. Ellis Davidson is one of his articles titled “Folklore and Man’s past” suggested in

1963 that there is a two way traffic between literature and oral folk tradition and this

traffic has gone on ever since we turned from an oral to an oral tradition. Another critic

Derek Brewer puts it in the following lines “the difference between medieval literary

narrative and folklore narrative was only of degree, with many qualities share. Oral

delivery was still an influence on Chaucer’s highly intellectual poetry just as it still in

that of folklore narrative observed by scholars in modern times…”

Up to the 17th century there was ample influence of folk belief and oral traditions on

serious literary artists. Then there was a breaking of the tradition and a contact of

another sort, as Katherine Briggs points out in a paper on “Folklore in Nineteenth

Century English Literature” in 1972, the move of poetry back to the country beliefs and

practices of the countryside to gain new significance. There were more complex links

also. In Margaret Dean Smith’s paper on “The Pre-Disposition to Folklore” published in

1968, she comments on the difference in the attitude of the century and a hundred years

later. She also adds that by 1900 a writer could confidently expect his educated readers

to have some knowledge of the early beliefs of the nation and of folklore in general

which was absent in case of an earlier generation who were trained almost exclusively

on the classics, with less or no knowledge of folklore. In addition there was a sudden

change of attitude towards the hitherto despised fairy tale, as a result of the works of the

Grimm Brothers and their followers.

Undoubtedly the relationship between folklore and literature must be a complicated one,

and it is necessary to tread warily, as in Blue beard’s castle, no single key will open all

door. But it must also prove a fruitful realm of investigation which will not be easily


In English literature, there is ample evidence of use of folklore. Geoffrey Chaucer, the

fourteenth century English poet often called the father of English poetry used many oral

tales in his literary creations. Francis Utley noticed folklore analogues for as many as 22

out of 28 of Chaucer’s famous Canterbury Tales, including the Nun’s Priest’s Tale, the

man of Law’s Tale, the Franklin’s Tale, the Friar’s Tale, the Miller’s Tale, the Reeves

Tale, the Shipman’s Tale, the Manciple’s Tale and Merchant’s Tale.

Folklore can no longer be gainsaid as an instrument of literary analysis. Forty articles

have appeared since I937 in American folklore journals discussing relationships of folk

material to literary works. Similar studies occasionally appear in literary quarterlies and

in book-length studies of individual authors. American writers credited with using

folklore include Conrad Aiken, Bill Arp, James Fenimore Cooper, Stephen Crane,

Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Faulkner, Ben- jamin Franklin,

Robert Frost, George Washington Harris, Joel Chandler Harris, James Hall, Bret Harte,

Nathaniel Hawthorne, Washington Irving, Sylvester Judd, John Pendleton Kennedy,

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Herman Melville, Eugene O'Neill, James Kirke

Paulding, Julia Peterkin, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Conrad Richter, Irwin Russell,

Carl Sandburg, Harden E. Taliaferro, John Greenleaf Whit- tier, Thomas Wolfe. In her

seminal work on American Humor, Constance Rourke analyzed the impact of American

popular lore on such major artists as Walt Whit- man, Edgar Allan Poe, and even Henry

James. (Hoffman & M. Dorson, 1957: 2-3)

Another example and a theme of debate for considerable times is the question of

folktale elements in the Anglo-Saxon poem, “Beowulf”. In an article published in 1970,

D.R. Barnes claimed that the plot of Beowulf can be fitted into Propp’s folktale

structure. As a product of the medieval period this poem is not shocking in its content

with folklore material. The whole work is based on a pagan approach and so it is not

exciting to recognize folklore analogues in the content. As a medieval product its writer

easily absorbed the familiar tales and traditions, with its marvels and beliefs and the

supernatural atmosphere.

The parallel of poetry can be found in modern novel, where folklore is used to convey

internal conflict; this is pointed out by Karl Wentersdorf in an article, “The Element if

witchcraft in The Scarlet Letter” in the “Journal” of 1972. Much time is spent

discussing the problem if how far Hawthorne in this novel and in the story “young

Goodman Brown” may himself have accepted the evidence for which meetings and

pacts with the devil as credible. This is why The Scarlet Letter is a far greater

achievement than The Amber Witch a convincing reconstruction of a young girl’s

experiences when falsely accused of Witchcraft written by Wilhelm Meinhold in 1834

and claimed to be taken from an old manuscript. Hawthorne believed that allegory was

only of value when it contained “the history and experience of many souls” and it was

for this purpose that he made use of folklore in his novel.

Examples of the use of popular beliefs in the supernatural elements in the work of

nineteenth century novelists are given by Jacqueline Simpson in her paper on “The

Function of Folklore in Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights” in the “Journal” of 1973. In

an analysis of Wuthering Heights Simpson shows how Emily Bronte (the novelist)

associated folk beliefs, Wraiths, portents, Witch Crafts and the like with “that intense

inner life” which define the relationship of Catherine and Heathcliff and how Bronte has

used them to convey the strength of their savage passions of love and hate and the

rebellious spirit with which they faced death. In Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, folk

belief or popular belief are used in a lighter key, because the characters of the novel do

not accept it. These three novelists mentioned above gained their knowledge and

interest of folklore from various sources. Hawthorne was obsessed by the part which his

ancestor, Judge John Hawthorne, had played in the Salem witch trials and had read

widely on the subject. The source used by Emily and Charlotte Bronte was oral one, the

tales, ballads and traditions learnt in childhood from Tabby Aykroyd, their domestic

help at Haworth Parsonage.

Various types of popular literature during recent years have used the materials of

folklore. No literature can avoid society and society is essentially related to its tradition,

rituals, celebration and of course folklore.

Folklore in drama is another aspect of the relationship between folklore and literature.

Much work has been done on the introduction of ghost, witches and fairies into

Shakespeare’s plays. In a perceptive paper on “Shakespeare and the fairies” in the

“Journal” of 1962, Roger Lancelyn Green emphasized the important relationship

between folklore and literature. He has drawn attention to Shakespeare’s familiarity

with the folk beliefs alive in Warwickshire during his boyhood and the general literary

traditions which he absorbed while serving his apprenticeship to the London Theatre.

Here we can refer to a Janet Spens who by 1916 claimed in his research work that

Shakespeare habitually made use of a folk play as the nucleus of his comedies: the

Robin Hood plot of “Two Gentlemen”, echoes of a Christmas and New Year Play in

“Twelfth Night”, a may play in “As You Like It”; a folk festival in “A Mid-Summer

Night’s Dream” and the scapegoat theme in “The Merchant Of Venice”. William

Montgomery in his paper “Folk Play and Ritual in Hamlet” in 1956, draws a number of

significant references in Hamlet-connected with folk drama: the Hobby Horse, jigs, a

pipe, a king of shreds and patches and so on, leading up to what he suggests is a parody

of the traditional sword-dance at the end. He claims that the very shaping of the plot,

with its theme of the slaying of a king, shows a resemblance to the basic pattern of

certain folk plays.

In the same way if we look at the regional level i.e. in Assamese literature, we have

enough examples of literary use of folklore materials. In Assamese poetry, especially in

the Assamese romantic poetry there is familiar echo of Assamese folk songs, ballads,

legends, folktales, riddle and proverbs. The famous Trinity of modern Assamese poetry-

Hem Barua, Nabakanta Barua and Nilmoni Phukan has used folk tradition to convey the

message. In the poem of Hem Barua the use of Assamese folk song “Bihu geet” and

“husori” can be found. He has also taken help of lullabies in poems like “Balichanda”.

In the poems of Nabakanta Barua the use of folklore and folk language is interesting. He

has used the folktale of “Tejimola” for his same titled poem with a modern

interpretation of a popular Assamese folktale character. The use of folktale characters

adds a distinct quality to Nabakanta Barua’s poetry. In the poetry of Nilmoni Phukon

traditional Assamese village life and its pure passions get life. Folk poetry and folktale

characters in Phukon’s poem bear a new symbolic meaning. In Assamese novel also

there are constant uses of folklore. Assamese regional novelist Rajanikanta Bordoloi has

highlighted different aspects of Assamese society. In his “Miri Jiori” he gives a detailed

description of Mising society with its tradition, folk customs and rituals. Several other

Assamese novelists such as Birichi Kumar Barua, writing under the pseudo name of

Bina Barua, Prafulladatta Goswami and Nabakanta Barua use the Assamese folklore

material in their novel to interpret their theme in a more convincing way. Nabakanta

Barua’s “Kapiliparia Sadhu” presents the Assamese folk life especially of Nagaon

region. (Barua: 2003)

Thus the subject of folklore in literature opens many possibilities. In the nineteenth

century especially the folklorists are delighted in careful collection and analysis of

literature with folk aspects. Now we also witness that folklore is an integral part of

literature, not an intrusive element in it, something which may affect the language,

structure and themes of outstanding works in literature. There are rich rewards waiting

for us in this field. Folklore and literature, as sometimes conceived are mutually

exclusive categories and concepts. Many a time, we face a situation where the two are

mutually inclusive and inter changeable.

Still there is a common tendency to distinguish the one from the other. Folklore is the

verbal, expressive tradition of a community/group of people. These group and face to

face interaction is more important. Here the text is a text in oral performance for

example – a song being sung by the folk singer in front of a larger or smaller audience.

A folk tale being narrated in front of a larger group of audience may be now available in

the print form but is orally performed (narrated) with the specific textural and stylistic

features ……. to this form of oral performance. It is also said that the songs, oral

narratives, tales and so on do not have a specific creator/author. Thus folklore texts

differ from the modern day literary texts like poem, short story, novel, drama and so on.

Here the author and the readers have the printed text to negotiate with, to interact with.

The author has his frozen text in the form of a printed text that can’t be changed. But the

oral Folklore texts are in constant flux – in dynamics.

However, there are close relations between the oral texts (oral literature) and printed

literature or modern literature. Many elements of Folklore have percolated down to

modern literature. Many work of fiction have truly used elements from myth, legends

and folk tale. Modern novels of magic relations draw heavily on the FL elements of

fantasy, supernatural. Oral songs, ballads, proverbs and riddles frequently find place in

literature of the contemporary times. Oral epics of the past have been recognized as

great assets of national literature after they were compiled, edited and validated for the

elite section of a particular society.

Among the tribal and oral communities of Assam and NE India, Oral tradition is still

vibrant. Many of the tribal communities have started documenting and printing the oral

songs, tales, epics and ballads in the last few decades. In this process, some element of

these oral traditions have found place in their modern literature.

The understanding and studies of folk elements in modern Bodo literature which

involves creative imagination and dedications are not undertaken so far. Some authors

and critics have written articles on poetic works of individual poets and the use of folk

elements as image and symbols. They draw images from various genres of folklore.

Therefore, these are to need for a systematic effort to study this important aspect of

Bodo literature.

The Bodo poets too, there is an emerging trend in creative writing which relies heavily

on elements from the oral traditions of the community. However, in the case of these

writings, there seems to be a subtle conceptual shift. The oral tradition material becomes

modern metaphors for Bodo writers to deal with contemporary and social and political

issues. The Bodo writers have gone back to their own cultural roots to articulate their

perceptions about themselves in an environment.

1.3 Bodo folk literature: A brief Survey:

Each and every community has their own literature, both in written as well as in verbal

form. Similarly, the Bodo language also has various genres of folklore like folk songs,

folk-tales, ritual songs etc, in oral form in abundance. The folk songs, folk tales etc, are

still continuing amongst people of ritual, generation after generation in oral forms, in

spite of the pressing influence of the modern civilization or rapid industrialization.

There are various types of literature in oral form, which have enriched the field of

modern written Bodo literature.

The Bodo language did not have a tradition of writing culture till the early decade of the

twentieth century. The language could preserve the rich tradition of oral literature in the

form of folk narratives, folk songs, chants, hymns, proverbs, riddles, etc.

Classification of Boro folk literature; and the terms used by the Bodos to indicate the

different genres are given below::

The verbal art or folk literature of the Boros may be classified into the following genres:

(a) Prose narratives (solo batha or subung solo)

(b) Folksongs (khuga methay)

(c) Proverbs and proverbial sayings (Bathrani bhao)

(d) Riddles (Bathra phangthe)

Folk tales: Folk tales play a very important role in the folk literature. Bodo folk

literature is also very rich with folk tales. These tales are described mostly in narrative

styles. Tales are still continuing mostly amongst the illiterate sections of the society,

generation after generation in oral form. The folk tales do not have a specific structure

or foundation. The person by his own limitation and capacity, describes those tales.

Different folk tales depict different stages of the society and its people.

The folk tales exposes the superstitions beliefs, likings and dislikings, anger etc,

prevailing in the community, which are skillfully narrated. Incidentally, it also focuses

indirectly the moral ideals and truthfulness. Among the folk tales in Assamese folk

literature, the tales of Tezimala, Tula and Teza, Kamala Kūwari etc are very popular. In

the tale of Tezimala also the narration of rice pounding is found. In Bodo Folk tales,

Daosin Dubrini Solo, Embusrwn Jwhwlau etc. are important tales associated with


The incongruity between Boro ethnic genres and analytical categories becomes

prominent in the case of the prose narratives. There are some ethnic terms to denote the

traditional narratives or prose narratives in Boro. The word solo or solo batha is most

commonly used to suggest the meaning of a tale or marchen (Assamese sadhu or sadhu

katha). The Christian missionary S. Endle, however did not use the word solo or solo

batha. J.D. Anderson who collected and published the first collection of Boro tales and

rhymes did not use the word solo or solo batha. He used the ethnic term khurang to

suggest the meaning of a tale. Sydney Endle also used the word khuorang to mean the

Boro Kachari tales. The reason for this may be that the narrative bearers of the oral

traditions did not use the terms solo but khuorang at that time. The literal meaning of

the word khuorang is not a tale, but a narrative, a saying or information about

something. J.D. Anderson who included some rhymes or songs in his collection,

however abstained from using Boro ethnic term for a rhyme or a song. Folklorists like

P. Goswami, P. Bhattacharya, Bhaben Narji and M.M. Brahma and many others have

used the ethnic term solo and solo batha to suggest the meaning of folk tale or prose

narrative. P. Goswami used the word colo in his collection Boro-Kachari colo and

classified the Boro prose narratives collected by M.M. Brahma into the following sub


(i) Wonder tales (gomothao solo)

(ii) Etio logical tales (phormainay solo)

(iii) Moral tales (Bocon solo)

(iv) Trickster tales (Sian zamba solo)

Bhaben Narji used the ethnic terms solo as well as solo batha without any hesitation.

But it is not clear why he used the term solo for some tales and solo batha for other tales

included in Boro-Kachari Jana Sahitya. P. Bhattacharya has used the word solo and

solo batha to mean a tale in appendix to Bhaben Narji’s collection. But the folklorists

did not make use of Boro ethnic terms for myth and legend to correspond with the

analytical categories of prose narratives. Dr. Anil Boro has used the ethnic terms like

mith, subun solo and solo respectively to suggest the meaning of myth, legend and tale.

This is the first ever academic and scientific attempt to make topological classification

of Boro prose narratives on folkloristic lines. The terms gozam solo and modai daodaini

solo may be used to suggest the meaning of a myth.

It must be admitted that proper and sufficient ethnic terms are not available to fit into

the analytical categories of oral literature. But some ethnic terms have been befittingly

used to denote and describe some, if not all genres of oral folklore. The ethnic terms

used by the Boros to denote and describe the genres of Boro oral folklore are of great

socio cultural and historic significance. The ethnic genres are dependent on their

cultural expression. These are not culture free like analytical genres. But care should be

taken so that the ethnic terms used to denote and describe the genres of oral folklore

become precise and appropriate. These should be at par with the analytical categories to

avoid the discrepancy between the analytical and ethnic genres. Any study of the ethnic

genres should take into account the cognitive, expressive and behavioural levels of

genres in each culture.

The young boys and girls go to each house hold, sing songs and dances and give

blessings. Through the songs the boys and girls express their joy and mirth and give

blessings to the family. The head of the family gives them rice or money to show their

respect and the boys play on drum (Kham), flute (siphung), the four stringed Serja,

thorkha (split bamboo) and the girls play on harp (gongona) and cymbal (jotha) and

dance together.

Ritual songs: Among the ritual songs, ‘Bathwu Aroj’ or marriage songs are prominent

in Bodo folk literature. In a traditional Bodo marriage, various rituals are performed

during the whole celebration. On such occasions, the women sing different types of

songs. It is a pleasant situation to watch and hear the two groups of the brides and the

grooms- engaged in verbal duel through songs composed extempore, more often than

not, making amusing reference, arguments and counter argument’s between the two

sides. The “Haba Methai” or marriage songs have smacked the Bodo folk literature,

which contributes valuable assets. It was seen that on such marriage songs, the ideal of

conjugal life, the separation of the bride from her parents, hopes and desires of a

woman’s life and a beautiful picture of domestic life is very beautifully depicted.

Folk Speeches: In Bodo oral literature, various sayings are associated with the daily life

of the members of the agricultural society. The basic text of ‘Bathra Phau’ is the

wisdom of many and the wit of none. They are in couplets, where one line is added to

another to make the line complete. The whole exercise in ‘Bathra Phau’ is to say a lot

using few words. The lines are spelt out very clearly with their inherent meaning.

The chief characteristic of the oral literature is that there is no specific writer of these.

These are continuing amongst the illiterate sections of the community, generation after

generation in oral form. These oral literatures are mostly found to express the feelings,

thought and emotions of a group, rather than an individual because, the people in

ancient time expressed their feelings in group, when they celebrate the festivals like

Bwisagu, Domasi etc. They join together to sing and dance and enjoy the occasion in


Folk songs are the traditional songs with repetitive pattern and oral circulation. They are

part of popular tradition. Folk songs are associated with different rural situations.

Festivals and public celebrations remain incomplete without folk songs. Songs

incorporated in creative writing makes reading pleasurable.

Folksongs or khuga methay (chubun methay) of the Bodos may be classified into

the following subtypes:

(i) Songs connected with seasonal and agricultural ceremonies and festivals.

(ii) Songs associated with rites-de passage.

(iii) Songs related to ritual and prayer.

(iv) Incantation (Monthor)

(v) Songs connected with philosophical ideas (Baidaci carinay methay)

(vi) Love songs (Goco thonai methay)

(vii) Ballads (Zoholao methay)

To suggest the meaning of folksong the terms like khuga methay, chubun methay and

nou-narini methay are generally used in Boro language. The word khuga means mouth

and the word methay means song. So the term Khuga methay means song sung and

transmitted by words of mouth. It means the oral songs extant among the Boros. The

word Subung is a Boro word which means ‘man’ or ‘people’. So the term chubun

methay means folk song or popular song. The Boro term nou-nari means people

including male and female. Hence nou-nari methay means songs sung by people both

male and female. The Boro folk songs connected with seasonal and agricultural festivals

and ceremonies are known as Baicagu methay and Domasi metahy. Baisagu methay is

the ethnic term used by the Boros to denote the songs sung during the Baisagu (spring

time) festival. Similarly Domasi methay, mohoho and phuthili haba are other songs

connected with seasonal and agricultural ceremonies of the Boros. Bwisagu is a greatest

seasonal festival of the Bodos and it is celebrated up to one month in early periods. But

now with the pace of time it is celebrated for one week only with the various rites

including cattle worship, worship offered to dead, ancestors, house cleaning, eating,

putting on of washed new clothes, exchange of good-will and formal bidding of the

festival etc.

The ethnic term used by the Boros to suggest the marriage songs is haba methay. The

word haba means marriage. The Boros have some ethnic terms to denote the songs

associated with prayer, ritual and worship. They have the kherai songs sung and chanted

during the kherai worship. There are songs and mantras sung during the Garza worship.

These songs are embedded in religious ideas.

The Boro ethnic term for ‘love song’ is gwsw thwnai methay. The term gwsw thwnai

means love songs. Another term mwjang mwnnai is used to mean love. The word

mwjang mwnnai means love in general including paternal love, maternal love and

fraternal or societal love.

Ballads: Ballad is an important genre of oral literature, transmitted orally from person to

person, generation to generation as an inherited property. The following characteristics

are most commonly seen in the ballads prevalent in all the countries of the world. i.

Ballad is narrative ii. A ballad is sung iii. A ballad belongs to the folk in content style

and designation iv. A ballad focuses on a single incident v. A ballad is impersonal, the

action moving of itself by dialogue and incident quickly to the end. (Leach


It is not easy to find out exact ethnic terms in Boro to denote the analytical categories in

folklore. Difficulty arises when one comes to find Boro equivalence for the word

‘Ballad’. Some authors and folklorists like Dr. Anil Boro have used the term Zwhwlao

methay to mean the ballads or fragments of ballads extant among the Boros. The word

Zwhwlao means a hero. Hence the term Zwhwlao methay means a song of hero worship

or a song narrating the heroic exploits of a legendary hero. The term solo methay may

be used to mean a ballad. The word solo means a tale. In Assamese the term kahini git is

used to denote a ballad. So the term solo methay seems to be an appropriate equivalent

for ballad. Ben Amos is conscious incongruity between ethnic genres of oral literature

and the analytical categories constructed for their classification. He writes whereas

ethnic genres are cultural moods of communication, analytical categories are models for

organization of texts. Both constitute separate systems which should relate to each other

as substantive matter to abstract models. Yet this relationship has not materialized.

Ballads may be i. Historical ii. Ballad of magic, iii. Realistic iv. Satirical. Historical

ballads recounts the historical incidents and exploits of historic figures. Ballads of

magic are the ballads based on the ancient and universal folklore themes. Realistic

ballads recount the true events of real life. Satirical ballads are caricature on the facts of

life or on some persons. Although the Bodos had a tradition of ballad singing in the past

but the tradition is almost dead by now. Only the fragments or snatches of a number of

ballads have been preserved. There are specimens of mythical, historical, realistic

ballads in Bodo. As specimens of mythical ballad or ballad of magic we may cite the

examples of the kherai songs, zaraphagla songs, and songs of phutli haba.

The Bodos have their own ethnic terms for the terms like nursery rhyme and lullaby.

The ethnic term for nursery rhyme in Bodo is Gotho burkhainay methay. The word

gotho means a baby or child and burkhaynay means the act of pacifying or appeasing.

Thus the term gotho burkhainay methay means a nursery rhyme. The word khudiya is

also used to mean a baby. So the term khuduya burkhaynay methay may also be used to

mean a nursery rhyme. The ethnic term in Bodo for a lullaby is khudiya undu hogra

metahy or gotho undu hogra methay. Khudiya unduhogra means a thing which is

capable of lulling a baby to sleep. The ethnic term for proverb in Bodo is Bathrani

bhao. The word bathra means speech or utterance and bhao means gesture or acting.

There are authors and folklorists in Bodo who use the terms like bathra zorainay and

bathra bhao to suggest the meaning of proverbs. The literal meaning of bathra zorainay

is yoking together of speech or utterance. Similarly the ethnic term in Bodo for the oral

genre is known as riddle is bathra phangthe. There are other authors and folklorists who

use the ethnic term ganthi or bathra ganthi to suggest the meaning of riddle. The literal

meaning of the word ganthi is ‘knot’. So ganthi or bathra ganthi means the short

utterances in Boro which are in the form of puzzle or question.

1.4 Objectives of the study:

The present study intends a detailed survey of Modern Bodo poetry in its use of

different aspects of folklore. It will also examine how the authors have used the folk

materials to deeper extent or in the surface level, if they are just ornamental or have

symbolic meanings. The study will also cover how literary use of folklore has a wider

dimension and opening up newer avenues in folklore study. The following are a few

more objectives of my proposed Research work:

1. The present study aims at making an in depth and comprehensive study of one

evolution of Bodo poetry in terms of mythic and folk elements.

2. The study aims to study the trends and uses of folk elements of modern and

contemporary Bodo poetry in between 1952-2000.

3. The present study aims to study the trends of reference to the works of the major

poets as well as the minor poets in Bodo language.

4. The present study aims to study the impact of mythic and folk elements from

other languages in shaping and nourishing the poetic talent of Bodo modern


So, the main objective of the study is to trace the relationship between folklore and


1.5 Limitation of the study:

In the present research it has been proposed to cover the modern poems of 1952-2000

only, because the main platform of Bodo literature known as Bodo Sahitya Sabha was

founded in the year 1952. In the same year Okhaphwr (The Moon) literary magazine

was published where good numbers of modern poems were published. The modernist

philosophy, symbolic expression, modern technique of writings etc. are also clearly

visible in the writings of that period. Therefore, the sudy has planned to study and

analyse the poems of that period.

1.6 Methodology:

The mode of the present research is analytical where the researcher is using data and

information already available in the form of printed books, articles, magazines, journal,

manuscript etc. and analysed these to make a critical evaluation. My study is confined

only on the poetry books published in 1952 – 2000. Besides to give a complete shape to

the study the researcher has collected primary and secondary data from different books,

magazines and journals of different libraries. The researcher has also met and

interviewed with some of the living authors and poets, who have provided valuable

information in this research.

1.7 Review of Literature:

There are not enough works on the field of relationship between and folklore and

literature. It is relatively new area in folklore research. In the case of Bodo literature the

present work is the first hand job of this kind and so this work becomes more

challenging. A few distinguished Bodo critics have written Articles and criticisms on

modern Bodo poetry. Their writings are confined on critical analysis and appreciations

only but not in terms of the relationship between folklore and literature. Mention may

be made of Madhuram Boro’s History of Bodo Literature (1990), Manaranjan Lahary’s

Bodo Thunlaini Jarimin (1991), and Dr. Anil Boro’s A History of Bodo Literature

(2011). Besides Mr. Brajendra Kr. Brahma, Dr. Sunil Phukan Basumatary and Dr.

Phukan Ch. Basumatary has published articles on different aspects of Bodo poetry.

References and works cited:

1. Anderson, J.D., 1895, A Collection of Kachari Folk Tales and Rhymes, Shillong:

Secretariate Press.

2. Bascom, W.R. 1981 “Verbal Art” Contributions to Folkloristics, Meerut:

Archana Publications. Print.

3. Barua, Birinchi Kumar, 2003, History of Assamese Literature, Kolkata: Sahitya

Akademi, Reprint.

4. Bhaben Narzi, Boro Kachari Samaj Aru Sanskriti, Guwahati: Bina Library.

5. Boro, Anil. 2001 Folk Literature of the Bodos: An Introduction, Guwahati:

Adhunik Prakashan. Print.

6. Balys, Jonas, 1955, Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore,

Folklore, Mythology and Legend, Harper & Row.

7. Daniel G. Hoffman, Richard M. Dorson, Carvel Collins and John W. Ashton

The Journal of American Folklore Vol. 70, No. 275 (Jan. - Mar., 1957).

8. Dorson, R. M. (ed.), 1972, Folklore and Folk life: An Introduction, Chicago:

University of Cairo Press.

9. Dundes, Alan, 1975, Analytical Essays in Folklore The Hague: Mouton.

10. Endle, Sidney, 1911, The Kacharis, London.