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Childhood Literature: Malaysia Folktales

Folktales are traditional narratives well known among the children and the older generations. These folktales are passed down from generation by generation and added with magical touch into the folktales back when there were no printers or technology. Apparently, men would travel one to another place to ply their trade to form stories. There are different types of folktales; fairy tale, fable, cumulative tale as well as myths and legends. It is a way for us to remind of ancestors and older generations. It helps our younger generation to be more careful as well advising them through stories. There are many animals’ characters that have been portrayed in Malaysian Folktales. Most of retelling can be found on the websites, which are based on the earlier version. It is also known as wonder tales because it is passed by orally and not through written form. It is closely related to tradition as well culture closely related to objects talking, often the use of magical elements in any folktale. Nowadays, it has become one of the most crucial forms of children literature. In Malaysian fables, deer is always features as the main character of the fables. The introduction use is also conventional such as “Once upon a time”. Most of the time plot is always sketched to be compact.

There are many animals’ stories that have been shared by the elder peoples to the younger ones. Some of them are “Sang Kancil”, “Sang Kancil helps kerbau”, “Mouse and deer” and many more. In these animal stories, the animals would be portrayed as different characters according to the habitat. Some might be kind, evil, greedy or even jealous. This character to create awareness among the children to portrays the animals in different ways. It’s also a memory of our civilization. Most of the animal stories are from unknown authorship and even magical elements are considered normal in any folktales. Tales such as animal tales help to instill the love for reading as well to learn how to read. Ideally, it also develops critical thinking apart from improving vocabulary. It is important because it not only amuses us but also provide valuable lessons to the children’s. According to Anderson (2013), motifs are defined as recurring elements within the stories found in various combinations across stories and traditons, such as magic objects or helpers, trial of character or strength and transformations (human to animal or animal to human). Malaysian folktales are different to literature due to its dissimilarities in terms of plot, style, structure as well as the language. It also exists in may variants and has its own logic as well issues.

The characters of animal tale are usually aimed to give lesson. For an example ‘Sang Kancil counts the Crocodile’. In this story all the animals can talk as humans and their life in jungle. It’s a cunning and well known for their curiosity and able to protect itself from any dangers. This folktale shows us how brave and smart can a deer be and it was able to fool the crocodiles with a brilliant idea. The deer are known for its higher ability to think mainly for its intellect to solve its problem. It also teaches them that is possible to outstand anyone despite of your physical features which is very much similar to the “Sang Kancil”. It is also fairly simple and against the good and the bad or evil. These stories always tells us that no matter what happen the truth will be prevail somehow which trains us to be kind and humble.

Each and every folktale has its own moral value and different type of animal with their own character. This is also to warn the kids about the danger the will face if they came across any of these animals. Ideally, snakes are usually portrayed as the evil character to warn these kids. Also, the characters have a clear-cut description, where we actually have heard or met before which makes the story interesting. Some of the common characteristic of folktales is closely related to the characters of the young readers. It also serves as important function in the Malaysian society and have issues as such. It is always delightful when the good characters triumph and we are happy when the bad characters are punished for all their wrong doings.

The functions of animal stories can mostly be read in any folktales. Animal stories are mostly used to explain natural phenomena. Often, they can be simple moral tales. Mostly, the animals have the ability to speak, their ability to think and solve problems very much similar to Aesop’s Fable. The mousedeer have different character in different number of stories. The older community regards this animal, which has higher self-esteem due to its ability. Some of the common fables are; the tales of mousedeer, Kisah Sang Kancil dengan harimau, Kisah Anjing dengan bayang-bayang, the crow and peacock and many more. In the story of anjing dengan bayang – bayang shows us that dog are portrayed as frightened over their own shadow and as for the crow and the peacock the Malay community portrayed the crow as a trickster. It shows us how the see the animals differently from different perspective. It also employs storyline with a pleasant conclusion to share the moral values among the children.

A folktale plays a very crucial role among the Malaysian society. The animal story that I’m going to identify is “Sang Kancil mengira Buaya” a Malaysian folktale. Sang Kancil known as deer or mousedeer are one of the famous folktales in Malaysia as well as Indonesia. The Malay community called them as intelligent animal and knows its way out everytime they face trouble or danger. There are many idioms widely used by the community to describe a very smart person. For instance,”cerdik macam kancil” is translated as smart as a mousedeer. This shows us the function of the deer among the Malay community.

The setting in this story took place in a tropical rainforest where it consists of different animals such as birds, elephant, crocodiles, hornbills, cicadas and many more. The folktales tells us that how a typical rainforest setting; monkey swinging around the forest to find food, thick forest filled with tall trees, a community of animals that can speak and think, strong vines hanging all the way from the green canopies. The forest was also described lively by the sounds of the different animals that live in it. The setting also tells us that the deer doesn’t have sibling or even family as well as offspring. There were place know as thick bush where the deer sleeps and get itself protected from the natural disaster. The roots were it’s bedding where it tells us it sleeps on it comfortably. Another setting was the bell fruit tree where the deer searches for its food to feed on. Ideally, there was river where the deer have to cross in order to get the fruits.

The plot starts from exposition where it tells us a setting of typical rainfrorest lived by many animals where also the “Sang Kancil”is living. His home was everywhere in the story. It all started when the deer’s stomach started to grumble and he wanted to find food to eat. He was going through all the places in forest to find his favourite fruit known as the bell fruit. He went high and low searching for food such as chestnut and came to know that most the fruits have been eaten earlier by other groups of animals. He continued searching but due to the hit scorching sun, he started to get exhausted and end up in vain.

The rising action starts when the “Sang Kancil” found its favourite, delicious and mouthwatering fruits across the river. At that point, it was to tired and even go about in search for food. Then, it came across a river and there were few logs were floating in the river. Due the humidity, he decided that he have to plan something or he will get extremely sick. He found that fruit and finding a way to cross the riverbank.

The climax started when Sang Kancil was going take a breath to drink when he heard a loud snap and felt extreme pain; he saw an ugly creature held through his leg lower than his knee. The crocodile must have mistaken the mouse deer’s leg that resembled the twig. He managed to trick the crocodile that it wasn’t his leg but one of the barks that was floating across river. On the other hand, the crocodile, which is known as Sang Buaya that is not so clever, released the twig. The “Sang Kancil” pretended to look cool and to not show its traumatized look and jump a bit higher with his imbalance leg. Knowing this the Sang Buaya felt very upset when it misses its meal and tried his best to give a good chase to Sang Kancil.

The falling action started when the Sang Kancil came up with the idea to trick the Sang Buaya. It came up with the idea to cross the river by telling the Sang Buaya that he had an order from King Solomon in order to cross the river. Sang Buaya believed him and asked all the crocodiles to gather so the deer could count all the crocodiles. There were 10 crocodiles in the river and the deer managed to fool all ten of them. At the end, the crocodile felt angry because it couldn’t eat the deer” Sang Kancil”.

The resolution took place when the Sang Kancil managed to trick all the crocodiles and cross the riverbank by tricking all the crocodiles. He was so happy and managed to get his fruit. While he crosses he sung song and he chanted repeatedly while reaching the riverbank. Lastly, he told the crocodiles to go and set them free. Not only that he gave a fruit to the crocodile too much and the crocodile had crumbled dreams.

Most of the character is very stereotypical and underdeveloped in folktales. The characters in the animal story can be divided into two, major and minor characters in the stories. The tricked character is always foolish or sometimes smart. Main character of the story Sang is Kancil known as smart animal and quick, witted as well a great problem solver. The crocodile is known as the character that was deceived by the “Sang Kancil”. Sang the crocodile to cross the riverbank tricked Buaya who is not very smart. The minor characters in the story are the other group of crocodile as well as the animals in the forest.

The theme of the story is how smart can Sang Kancil be and spontaneous in handling its issues. Apart from that, the story also tells us that we should always think beforehand. The moral value of the story is to be clever and think before doing something as well as the cleverness of the Sang Kancil, it tricked the crocodile to help him cross the river to his new home on the other side of the river and fooled the crocodile as well leaving the crocodile angrily behind. Lastly, the moral value of the story is to always be smart and to be brave to survive the world because if not you can be cheated easily.

The preparation to tell the story to my class is first by preparing the images of characters for the children to initiate children to imagine the character of the animal stories. This is by showing the pictures by videos or by images that will help to develop the child’s thinking. Next, the folktales provide them with excellent knowledge to learn the consequences from the story. Later, introduce them with the setting of the places by playing video for them. The students can explore their mind by imagining how a riverbank, forest would look like. With this we promote positive attributes towards the nature. The topic was set to bring a general background of Malaysian culture and tradition. The names that are set to use are how the animals are being called back then. The teacher can prepare some pre activities such as introduction to the characters and settings. Once the little ones have a clear picture of the character, it will be easier to read the story out to kids. Next, while reading an activity is to point the images on the board while reading through the stories. The teacher will stop here and there to ask the question like “where’s the dear at?” and many more. This will make the children’s to be aware of the location of the deer in the story. Post reading activity will be the introduction to moral values while connecting back to the story. The student has to number the sequence of the story from the beginning to end. Kids who are active can arrange the animal miniatures from the story on a storyboard where there are pictures or background of the tropical rainforest. This will keep them occupied and it’s a lesson incorporated with game.

Lesson to enhance communication and language learning through folktales

Firstly, the children can also read after the teacher to practice the pronunciation. Kids learning takes place on their own without being to be spoon-fed. Besides that, it cultivates the children’s interest in reading as well instilling love stories among them. One of the lessons will be role-play. Each kid well is given a character as an animal or even trees, riverbank; fruit because every character has its own role. The kids have to act out according to the teachers reading and the rest of the kids will sit and watch. The students can take turn to act out. While acting out their role they also have to remember their scripts by the guidance of teacher. This will make them to feel confidence while acting out their role also on how to communicate or stage performance with their teammates. This will also bring the talents of the children out.

As for communication, the teacher can prepare a vocabulary lesson, words choose from the stories. The teacher introduces the words to the students as well the spelling of the words. Kids have to understand the meaning of the words through a video. Then, the teacher will jumble up the words using the scrabble keys and the students have to rearrange the words and explain the meaning once they have done so. The objective of the lesson is to train the kids to react certain role as well situation that will be impactful for them. At the end of the lesson, majority of the students will understand the chronological event in the story, the characters as well as the moral value in the story. They will also be able to imagine the idea and the setting of the wonderful story using the pictures that the teachers have provided to the students. The fables are great medium for student’s especially young learners.

Concluding the entire assignment, there are many ways we can preach moral values by integrating it into lesson. Preferably for young learners or preschoolers, they always have different perspective and get attracted easily to the interesting characters. This will make them imagine about all the animal characters that is able to speak and if it’s their favorite animal and they favor those animals chance of them valuing their moral values are very high. Through this we can teach is as part of curricular or even as literature for the young learners. This will create a magic vibrant for the kids and great way to initiate reading.

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