In an attempt to conserve folk literature, language lover and lecturer, Dorji Wangchuk (PhD), has come up with a book: “English through folk tales of Bhutan.”
Designed to instill listening, speaking, reading, writing, and critical thinking, among others, the book is first of its kind which could help readers to slowly dissect the essence of rich Bhutanese folk tales through exercise at the end of each story.
The book contains 18 stories, retold differently to entice and familiarise young Bhutanese with their cultural roots.
This is in the language of the author himself: “Folk tales are supposed to be ‘inaccurately accurate’ and ‘inconsistently consistent’. It is this feature, among others, that distinguishes folk tales from other literary genres.”
What is unique about this book?
It’s got literary theories embedded in almost every line. Folk tales help to shape a cultural and individual identity.
Through varied characters like monkeys and birds, the stories bring into limelight the themes of basic Bhutanese beliefs like love, compassion, greed, and cause and effect.
As a young girl who grew up nodding to my granny’s folk tales by a kerosene lamp every night in my village, I share the writer’s concern about the fast-vanishing tradition, which is a symbol of our cultural and historical identities.
The probability of total wipeout of Bhutanese folk tales is high in the face of “cheap digital entertainment.”
But the culture has to evolve, even oral traditions. Documentation such as this one holds the promise to retain or preserve what continues to define Bhutan and Bhutanese—art, music, food, dance, songs, legends, costumes, and fables.
Notwithstanding spelling mistakes and phrase usage, each story is beautifully illustrated, helping the readers to visualise their meanings. The book, however, is not meant for leisure reading. To successfully carry out the exercises on skills development, one has to introspect.
The book is meant for educational engagement.
The author could have retained the originality of tales, however. Some dramatisation could have been left out.