Folk Tales of the Kaani Tribal People

of south India



The Kaani people of south India have a population of approximately twenty-five thousand, in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.


A Kaani Storytelling Festival is being planned for Sat 28 Sept 2013,  in Pechiparai, Kanyakumari district, Tamil Nadu.  At this Festival, Kaani folk tales told by men and women would be recorded.  For more info about this Festival, please contact 98403 94282, .


Ideas regarding ways tribal people could develop their cultures are here.



Kaani Folk Tale Number 1:


"Kunja Kathai" ("Story about the Youngest Brother")


Six older brothers invited their youngest brother to come to the forest to hunt wild pigs.  However, deep in the forest, the six older brothers turned on their youngest brother and stabbed him to death with their spears.  The youngest brother's two dogs went running back to the village.  By whining and nudging, they pleaded with the youngest brother's wife to come with them.  They led the wife to her husband's body, laying on the grass.  The wife fell to her knees and began to lament (weep and scream).  Nearby, a snake and a mongoose were playing -- which was unusual because usually they are fighting. The snake observed the situation and said, "Please do not weep, madam.  We will get the medicine and bring your husband back to life".  So the snake and mongoose got the needed plants, ground and mixed them, and applied the paste to the youngest brother's skin.  He revived, to the great joy of his wife.  The Youngest Brother, his wife, and two dogs returned to their village.  They told the village elders what had happened, and the six older brothers had to leave the village.


-- Told by Rajammal, mother of Velmurugan, in the village of Vellambi, Kanyakumari district, Tamil Nadu, in 2003.



Commentary by Dr Eric Miller, Director, World Storytelling Institute (Chennai):


I heard this story in the course of my Folklore PhD research in Vellambi.


One thing I appreciate about the story is, the life-giving qualities of the animals and plants counter the destructive qualities of the older brothers.


The Youngest Brother's wife succeeds in bringing her husband back to life.  This is in contrast to what happens in another story told in Tamil Nadu, "Silappadikaram", "Epic of the Anklet" (an article on this story is here).  In the "Epic of the Anklet", Kannagi is not able to revive her husband Kovalan.  In both cases, a man is put to death unjustly, his wife has to face the situation, and she begins by engaging in Oppari (lamenting).


In Western terms, the "Story about the Youngest Brother" could be classified as a legend or folk tale.