The IUP Journal of English Studies
(De)Constructing Man-Animal Binary in Santal Folktales

Article Details
Pub. Date : June, 2023
Product Name : The IUP Journal of English Studies
Product Type : Article
Product Code : IJES080623
Author Name : Moumita Bala and Smriti Singh
Availability : YES
Subject/Domain : Arts & Humanities
Download Format : PDF Format
No. of Pages : 15



This paper revisits the folktales of jackals in the less-explored Santal folklore. It foregrounds the unique interdependence of humans and animals in these folktales, inconsistent with the contemporary subjectobject dichotomy between the human and animal worlds. Rather than being passive objects of literary discourse, animals in Santal folktales are depicted as potential individuals with "agency" who participate in various sorts of interaction. By questioning anthropocentricity, this study examines how the man-animal dichotomy is challenged by the jackals' active engagement in Santals' everyday lives and how the jackals are represented as closest neighbors of humans. In the process, it deploys a critical discourse analysis method to analyze stories from Bodding's three-volume collection of Santal folktales. Drawing on concepts like anthropomorphism, animal agency, and animal cognition, this paper examines the symbiotic relationship between Santals and jackals.

Although India has a significant tribal population, the Chota Nagpur Plateau is home to a large indigenous tribe known as the Santals, who are totemic groups named after animals, plants, and inanimate objects (Santals 2021). The Santal community is divided into twelve clans, which derive their names from their mythical animal and plant ancestors: Hansdak (wild goose), Murmu (nilgai), Marandi (saramollagrass), Soren (Pleiades), Kisku (kingfisher), Hembrom (betel palm), Tudu (owl), Baske (stale rice), Besra (falcon), Chonre (lizard), Pauria (pigeon), and Bedea (sheep or donkey) (Raj 2019). Santals show inexplicable reverence for their respective totems, and accordingly, they believe in the coexistence of human beings and animals that most people in the modern era tend to forget. Their creation myth explains their deep attachment to totemic creatures, and they have a rich oral literature that Christian missionaries have chronicled in written form, and their folklore is enriched by the stories of animals, birds, plants, and inanimate objects.