Folktales Along the Silk Road
w/ NEAR E 496/596
The course will introduce folktales from Mongolia, at the eastern end of the Silk Road, and proceeding westwards, we will get acquainted with Uzbek, Tajik, Kazakh, Kirghiz, Turkmen and Turkish folktales. After discussing the various types of folktales and their structure, we will trace the origin and changes of certain motifs, such as the motif of the king with ears of a donkey or horns (Alexander Legend); or the motif of the "Return of the Hero" (Odyssey). Theroughout the course comparisons will be made to European/Russian Folktales.
The course will also pay attention to the question of the origin of the folktale and its connection to other oral literary genres, such as the epic song. Among the Mongolian-Turkic nomads certain types of folktales, namely animal stories, have been told at hunting grounds to appease the animals to be hunted. Stories in general were often tlkd in a ritual fashion. They had to be preceded by a lengthy introductory song praising "the bygone times, when men and animals lived peacefully together." Finally, the question needs to be asked what role the story teller played among the Mongolian and Central Asian Turkic peoples who until the 1930s essentially led a nomadic life.