40 years ago when the Central Institute of Indian Languages was
set up, one of its main objectives was to act as a nodal agency for
language related research in India. The Study of folklore engaged the
attention of the Institute right from its inception. The Folklore unit of the
Institute became a leader in the study of folklore across the country. This
must be recognized because prior to that the accounts of folklore were
confined to report of British Administrators or the Missionaries and it
was only Central Institute of Indian Languages which wanted to establish
the study of folklore in the matrix of inquiry into the nature of human
mind, culture and society. The Institute did commendable work in the
area of tribal languages and many of the linguists collected several folk
materials for textual analysis. Several international scholars were
engaged in dialogue on the subject with experts from the Institute.
However, a great deal still needs to be done for the Institute to revitalize
folklore studies since they are of great importance.
"Folklore as currently understood goes beyond religious or
supernatural beliefs and practices, and compasses the entire body of
social tradition whose chief vehicle of transmission is oral or outside
institutional channels." It is, often, a source of history for predominantly
oral languages. Since Nagas are known to have a very rich component of
folklore which is being passed down the generations through word of
mouth, the documentation of folk materials is bound to be an important
integral component of the development of the language and culture of the
There is also a concern in many circles that just as languages are
viewed as endangered, the entire cultural fabric is also under threat
because of rapid advancement in technology and social change. Modern
societies are being de-linked from their ancient tradition and unless
attempts are made now indigenous knowledge system links to the
folklore will also be lost. It is, therefore, commendable that in this
collection the authors have prepared a scholarly collection of Zeme
folktales which combined legend, dance, ballad and ritual, carnival and
So on in relation with social structure and biology and ecology that still
thrive in oral literature among the Zeme Community. The tales reflect the dynamic. character of Naga folk culture as a whole and the Zeme
community, in particular. The central theorem one could find from this
combination of Zeme folktales is, they vividly portray the deep and
passionate lives of the ancestors of the Zeme community and the way
they treated animals as a part of human society in the ancient world.
We hope this collection will help not only preserve the folk
literature of Zeme community, but also become a valuable contribution to
the folklore studies in the country. I congratulate the authors.
The Nagas are spread over Nagaland, part of Manipur, Arunachal
Pradesh, Burma and Assam. It is therefore difficult to ascertain, even
today, about their total number of population and the languages they
speak. One of the uniqueness of the Nagas is that, wherever they may be,
they passionately lived in folklorist’s lives. Every tribe or community of
the Nagas has their own rich folk literature. There is however striking
contrast between modern technology and folk tradition. The coming of
modern education and technology has immensely benefited younger
generation in their advancement of knowledge. At the same time, it also
endangers the survival of their culture and tradition. The present day
generation does not get much opportunity to listen to their folktales as
much as their older generations did. Today, the tradition of folk gathering
in the night-hours which play major role in transmission of folktales from
generation to generation is almost extinct even in most of the villages.
This may be due several reasons. Three major reasons may be speculated
The first is the spread of Christianity in the villages. The tradition of
night-hour gatherings where the young adults got opportunity to listen to
the folktales told by their elders had been replaced by church services
where they only listen to the sermons of the preachers.
The second is literacy which brings modern education, technology and
urbanization that had penetrated in the village culture. Besides
televisions, varieties of children’s stories, comics and so on are available
in schools and 1n the markets.
The third is school syllabus. Lessons incorporated in language subjects
are from outside source only. Even in mother tongue textbooks, most of
the stories are translated from outside source. There is hardly any local
origin. This had caused negative impact on the children. Directly or
indirectly, children have taken their folktales as something sub-standard
and not worthy of listening to.
Incorporating folk stories of native people in the school textbooks can
play not only a mere source of information about their ancestors, but also
can play an important role in mental building and _ personality
development of children. With this objective, the Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore, in collaboration with the Textbook Section,
Department of School Education, Govt. of Nagaland, had attempted to
collect folktales from various tribes of Nagas so as to include them in
mother tongue textbooks.
Compilation of the Zeme folktales is part of this objective. We wish to
acknowledge our gratitude to the tellers of these folktales. This
compilation was possible only because of their sincere contribution.
We also thank the Director, Central Institute of Indian Languages,
Mysore, for taking up responsibility for publication.
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