22 Feb 2011

kaigou: this is what I do, darling (4 oh em gee)
Talking just now with CP on a paper idea of his, and (as we frequently do) we ended up tangenting along until we ended up on a discussion of whether there are/were significant non-named/generic non-human critters in folklore from any of the African countries.

When I was researching for stories of my own, one thing that bothered me to no end was the overwhelming amount of material available on European (especially British and North European) folklore creatures... and the absolute dearth on just about anywhere else other than maybe Japan and Russia (and a smattering from India). Elsewhere, sure, you could find plenty of stories about named characters -- i.e. Anansi, Coyote, Baba Yaga -- where there's an entire body of legends about the character's exploits. But those legends also presuppose that there's only one, even if that one shows up everywhere at any time. What I was looking for was generics or categories, like the Indian naga, or the Korean gumiho, or the Welsh redcap, and having no luck.

A few times, in articles from/about -- I think it was Mozambique, South Africa, and... I want to say one of the western coastal countries, but I don't think it was Cote D'Ivoire proper -- there would be random passing reference. Then the interveiwee (or translating author/ethnographer) would keep going, into some story of another named legend. No, no, back up, I wanted to say, but it was clear that someone -- whether the interviewee, or the interviewer -- didn't consider these incidental unnamed category-creatures to be worth more explanation.

This is entirely my speculation, but it's possible that it's the ethnographer only wanting a 'body' of stories, instead of snippets here and there -- little stories, if you will. And it's also possible that it's the interviewee (as CP suggested) not wanting to seem too backwards, so preferring to tell legend-type stories, where there's a running narrative. Instead of, y'know, talking about the bogeyman.

But I wonder if it's also possible that in telling the little stories, that there's a self-censorship at play because of the self-consciousness of the telling. Like, for instance, choosing not to repeat the stories of Santa Claus, because you stopped being fooled by that story when you were eight -- even if ten minutes after the interviewer leaves, you're reprimanding your own children about the fact that if they don't behave, Santa will leave coals in their stockings.

Besides, it's my firm belief that if there's one universal aspect to parenting, it's that all parents have a bogeyman at their command. And if you don't behave, that bogeyman -- whatever his or her name, age, rank, appearance, or living quarters -- will come get you.

Or maybe it's just that bogeymen are universal.

ETA: If you do know of beastiary [yokaiography, demonography, list-of-nonhumans, etc] books that recount the folklore of 'generic' (unnamed) non-human types, from cultures other than EU/CEE (which I already have in spades), please do tell.


kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
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"When you make the finding yourself— even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light— you'll never forget it." —Carl Sagan

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