Asian Geographic

Folk tales in the Modern Era


“In fact, the whole of mythology could be taken as a sort of projection of the collective unconsciou­s… We can therefore study the collective unconsciou­s in two ways, either in mythology or in the analysis of the individual.” – From “The Structure of the Psyche” by Carl Jung

Today, as most people’s lives revolve around technology, folk tales have long since fallen out of fashion, as if a remnant of a past world long forgotten.

We live in an age of science and reason where oral traditions that once helped make sense of life no longer seem relevant. However, in believing that folklore is no longer important, we may be severing a vital link to our past and losing out on an opportunit­y to learn more about human experience.

In his book “The Structure of the Psyche”, Swiss psychiatri­st Carl Jung (1875–1961) explores the theory of a collective human unconsciou­s, in which certain archetypes exist and are represente­d by the characters and themes found in folk tales. Humans as natural storytelle­rs can theroise that the story of our experience as a species can be deciphered through the symbolism and commonalit­ies found in the folk tales of cultures from across the world. These stretch back into ancient history, and can tell us much about the collective experience of the human species.

These archetypes speak to us because we all experience them in everyday reality, to a greater or lesser extent, which could explain why we find the same tales being told (albeit with cultural variations) across so many different places.

Folk tales are still alive and an inherent part of cultural traditions, such as the wayang kulit (shadow puppetry) of Indonesia and the Chinese opera of East and Southeast Asia. These traditions hold strong and are revered throughout the world. Folk tales also appear in our day-to-day lives, such as through song, dance, literature, and television. The next time you watch a programme or read a book, be on the lookout for a glimpse into this magical world of folk tales, and go down this inviting rabbit hole for an exciting adventure.

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