Question 5: What do you understand by the term ‘oral literature’? Illustrate.
Ans: ‘Oral Literature,’ also referred as ‘Folklore,’ is a’verbal art,’ that is, an art that is presented verbally and passed orally from individual to individual, generation to generation, place to place, and so on. Traditional forms of entertainment are referred to as oral literature. Epic poetry, folk stories, folksongs, myths, legends, and ballads of individuals and events are examples of oral literature. In the vast realm of ‘sound,’ Oral Literature exists in the ‘vocal’ (speaking) and ‘aural’ (listening) domains. As a result, Oral Literature takes the shape of ‘performance.’
Since we already know that the term “literature” refers to anything that is actually written, the name “Oral Literature” seems to be a contradiction, a circumstance in which two contradictory things are juxtaposed. Oral literature is literature that is expressed orally rather than in writing.
Although since beginning of time, people have been telling stories. Storytelling has been around since man first learned to talk. People in ancient times (perhaps prehistoric times) probably had nothing better to do after a day’s hunting than gather around the fire and tell fictitious and historical tales. This may make it appear as though ‘oral’ tale telling is a relic of the past. In fact, oral tradition continues to play an important role in many societies today. The Caribbean culture, for example, is primarily oral, as are many other civilizations throughout the world.
Folklore is a subset of what we refer to as “oral literature.” It is essentially a creative representation of people’s traditional beliefs and practises, as recounted to young children by their grandfathers/mothers and passed down to their own children as they grow up. The stories evolve from generation to generation, and new aspects are introduced – things that are more modern and connected to societal/cultural developments. The main goal of these oral stories might be to entertain, instruct, teach people morals, and so on.
The Ugandan linguist PioZirimu created the term orature to give the verbal arts a higher rank than that given by the title “Oral Literature.” He opposed the title ‘Oral Literature,’ believing it to be inferior to ‘Written Literature.’ His short description of orature as the use of speech as an artistic mode of expression, on the other hand, remains tantalisingly out there, alluding to a verbal concept of beauty that did not require literary validation. Nevertheless, the name has expanded, and one may now find Hawaiian Orature, Ghanaian Orature, Namibian Orature and a variety of other terms. Despite its ubiquitous use, few people have spent time delving into the term’s numerous theoretical implications. Pitika Ntuli of South Africa is one of the few people who has tried to expand the term’s meaning beyond its Zirimian connotation.”
The following are some of the characteristics of oral literature:
(Voice) Sound: Folksingers, jesters, bards, traditional folk theatre performers, community storytellers, and others are commonly thought to be unenlightened and unaffected by print media. They could only express themselves and get their art from the lips of people like them through the means of voice.
Fluid: Folktales and tunes are flexible in the sense that the manner they are narrated, played, or sung varies from performance to performance, yet the core or primary subject or plot stays the same. Each performance by the singer or storyteller is unique; the singer or storyteller never delivers the same storey twice. He or she may change the story, introduce something unique, add more detail to the story, pause the song in the middle and tell an anecdote, and so on.
Simplicity: Folk art may appear to be simpler than literature. Folktales, ballads, and oral epics are basic forms of art that sprang from benign impulses and, as a result, lack the intricacy seen in writing. Folk art, it is often claimed, is the result of unsophisticated brains incapable of profound thinking, whereas reflective literature, which attempts to mimic reality, is the result of intelligent, civilised minds.
Simplicity: Folk art may appear to be simpler than literature. Folktales, ballads, and oral epics are basic forms of art that sprang from benign impulses and, as a result, lack the intricacy seen in writing. Folk art, it is often claimed, is the result of unsophisticated brains incapable of profound thinking, whereas reflective literature, which attempts to mimic reality, is the result of intelligent, civilised minds. There’s also the notion that oral art is easier than writing simply because it reflects a previous stage in civilization’s development. Oral literature, on the other hand, has its own significance and place. Some types of folklore may be easier to understand, but oral literature as a whole cannot be compared to written literature. As civilizations became more advanced, basic forms gave way to literary genres that satisfied the same expressive demands.
Style structure: In terms of organization and style, Oral Literature differs significantly from Written Literature. There appears to be a significant structural and stylistic difference between spoken and written communication at times. Repetition, stock epithets, stock characters, a strong predilection for imagination over reality, and a focus on action are all considered to be characteristics of Oral Literature. The usage of such elements varies significantly depending on the tellers’ preferences and abilities.
Authorship: Authorship is one of the long-standing differentiating characteristics that appears to distinguish Oral Literature from Written Literature. We’ve learned that written literature is the work of a single person, whereas folk songs and stories are collaborative creations that emerge from the community as a whole. Folklore is also seen to be faceless and unchanging, whereas literary art is thought to be individualised and creative. Although authorship of a work in Oral Literature is not as easily determined as it is in Written Literature, the idea of ownership does exist. Folk artists are acknowledged as the proprietors of particular stories, and other folk artists will typically appreciate a folk artist’s greater ability to convey a story. Individual narrators can be fiercely possessive of their own work, to the point of refusing to let other narrators hear it.
The Audience: Among all the other characteristics, the audience is the one that distinguishes Oral Literature from Written Literature the most. Simply said, an audience is required for an oral tale to exist. Literature is and can be created for an imagined audience, one that may or may not read the written work of art. As for the folksinger or storyteller the listeners chooses which topic the speaker would tell, how long it will be, or whether the narrator will be able to finish it. That everybody should enjoy the narrative or performance; the tale should be understandable to everybody, and the storey should be easily recognised and shared by everyone who hears it. S/he must win the audience’s acceptance and comprehension. As a result, the folk artist’s creativity must include not just aesthetic training, but also, and maybe most significantly, social training. The storytellers are unable to separate themselves from the audience in the same way that a writer can.