As is to be expected, there are interesting differences between tales of other cultures. This does not exclude the culture of Bangladesh, a small country on the Indian subcontinent. In his lecture, “Rupkotha: Folk and Fairy Tales from Bangladesh,” Dr. Shabbir Mian describes some elements of Bangladeshi fairytales (called “Rupkotha”) and teaches about the fairytale of “The Blue Lotus and the Red Lotus,” about two brothers who fight demons.
Like most fairytales, stories in Bangladesh are passed down through an oral tradition, meaning that there is some variation between the tales each time they are told. I thought it was especially interesting that this is reflected in the names of the collections of the stories that appeared when people began to collect them and put them together. Two of the collections of stories are called “Thakurmar Jhuli” and “Thakurdadar Jhuli” (meaning “Grandmother’s Bag” and “Grandfather’s Bag” respectively). These titles remind readers of the people who may have originally told them these stories; their grandparents.
Another similarity between the stories of Bangladesh and the stories that we have read so far is that they all seek to teach the reader a lesson. The stories we have read in class have ended in a moral that the reader is supposed to take with him. According to Dr. Mian, this is also a characteristic of Rupkotha.
One interesting thing that came up in class discussion was the difference between Western and Eastern color symbolism. In the lotus story, the brother whose mother is a human is red, whereas the brother whose mother is a demon is blue. This is in great contrast to Western symbolism in which the red color would normally symbolize evil because of its associations with blood and wrath. One possible reason for this color dichotomy, given by Dr. Mian, is that in Eastern cultures red represents purity and; therefore, would have an association with good rather than evil.
Overall, I thought that not only the stories from Bangladesh were interesting, but also the similarities and differences between the stories. Like Western stories, Eastern stories are passed orally and try to teach the reader a lesson, but because of cultural differences they sometimes have different symbolism.