Sunday, November 29, 2009

Folk tales

Folk tales are impossible to write. Probably precisely because they're folk tales to begin with. It might explain that urban legends notwithstanding there have been no new folk tales in a long time (some anthropologists and linguists would say that not since European ancestors have migrated from the Indian subcontinent). Reading an English, French, Russian, Italian, German, Chinese folk tale, almost immediately it's clear that they all have something in common: simplicity, bordering on starkness. Modern fiction is full of symbolism, elaborate descriptions, complex plot, multilayered characters. Compared to it folk tales are stark, almost boring; yet unlike modern fiction folklore is remarkably hard to emulate. In its simplicity it has authenticity that resists imitation, that is impossible to fake. Maybe only children's stories (that is stories told by the children) can begin to approach the paradoxical complexity of a folk tale, maybe there are some barriers to a sense of unadulterated wonder, that accumulate as we grow up.

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