Monday, November 16, 2020

Tragic love stories all the way down (Following folktales around the world 177. - Pakistan)

Today I continue the blog series titled Following folktales around the world! If you would like to know what the series is all about, you can find the introduction post here. You can find all posts here, or you can follow the series on Facebook!

Folk tales of Pakistan
Zainab Ghulam Abbas
Pakistan Publications, 1957.

The book contains nine stories, each of them quite long, from various parts and ethnicities of Pakistan: there are Bengali, Sindhi, Punjabi and Pushto stories among them. There are no notes or introduction, so it was a bit difficult to tell what the origin or the sources of the collection might have been, but that did not affect the overall reading experience.


The whole book is basically a collection of beautiful yet tragic love stories. Mahua, the Wild Flower, for example, is a girl who falls in love with a Brahman man, and they even run away together, but when her father catches up with them the girl kills herself rather than betraying her lover. The Song of Bhelua is about a wife who gets kidnapped, and even though her husband fights valiantly to get her back, he arrives too late; Sassi és Punnu are also a couple, but here the husband gets kidnapped, and the wife perishes searching for him in the desert (which is too bad, because the beginning of this tale is really nice; the rich man gives up his fortune to become a launderer, to be able to marry his sweetheart). The marriage of Momal, the wise queen to Rano ends in a tragic divorce when she tries to make her husband jealous by dressing her sister up as a man (not a wise idea). The musical love story of Adam and Durkhane ends with the girl dying to the sound of the music of her perished lover; a tree grows on their grave, providing wood for many lovers' musical instruments over the years.
The only exception in the book is the story of Manjurma. This one started out nice, with a grumpy old healer who adopted an orphan girl. Except, when she grew up, he decided to marry her... so she ran away with her beloved, leaving him alone. Apart from them, there was only one couple who survived this book, a side character in the Story of Heer, named Sehti, and her sweetheart. She befriended the heroine, and they eloped with their lovers together. Except Sehti and her sweetheart Murad had a camel, so they rode off into the sunset; Heer did not have a steed, so she got captured, and her family poisoned her. 


I was reminded of the story of Hero and Leander by Sohni and Mahinwal. Here, a rich merchant gave up his fortune to be with the girl he loved, except they were not able to marry so he met her in secret. Every night the girl swam across the river to be with her lover, but one night a storm drowned them both.
After the Azerbaijan collection I once again encountered the belief that snakes can turn into dragons, and dragons can turn into humans over time. Here a Chinese princess turned out to be a lamia monster, and her disappointed husband needed a wise man's help to get rid of her.

Where to next?

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