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In Quest of Indian Folktales

Pandit Ram Gharib Chaube and William Crooke

Sadhana Naithani

Publication Year: 2006

"[A] rare piece of scholarly detective work." -- Margaret Mills, Ohio State University

In Quest of Indian Folktales publishes for the first time a collection of northern Indian folktales from the late 19th century. Reputedly the work of William Crooke, a well-known folklorist and British colonial official, the tales were actually collected, selected, and translated by a certain Pandit Ram Gharib Chaube. In 1996, Sadhana Naithani discovered this unpublished collection in the archive of the Folklore Society, London. Since then, she has uncovered the identity of the mysterious Chaube and the details of his collaboration with the famous folklorist. In an extensive four-chapter introduction, Naithani describes Chaube's relationship to Crooke and the essential role he played in Crooke's work, as both a native informant and a trained scholar. By unearthing the fragmented story of Chaube's life, Naithani gives voice to a new identity of an Indian folklore scholar in colonial India. The publication of these tales and the discovery of Chaube's role in their collection reveal the complexity of the colonial intellectual world and problematize our own views of folklore in a postcolonial world.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

In 1996, I located the handwritten manuscripts of William Crooke’s famed collection of the folktales of northern India in the archive of the Folklore Society, London. They were not catalogued, but were listed in the archive as “Indian Legends (William Crooke?).” As the two archival boxes were opened, many signs confirmed that their contents were William Crooke’s materials. The tales were still...

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pp. ix-xiii

One of the readers to whom Indiana University Press sent the manuscript of thisbook called it a piece of “scholarly detective work,” accurately characterizing the research process, which involved suspense and revelation. While thanking the reader for the comment, I must say that the choice to carry out such work was not always mine; matters demanded it. The help of academic institutions, colleagues,...

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Part I. The Quest

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pp. 1-5

William Crooke (1848–1923) in his doctoral robe. Courtesy the Crooke family, especially Hugh Crooke, Pat Crooke (grandsons), and Roland Crooke (great grandson and sonof the late John Crooke, who kept the library of the late Dr. William Crooke for years with...

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1. Pandit Ram Gharib Chaube and William Crooke

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pp. 5-18

Pandit Ram Gharib Chaube met William Crooke sometime in 1891 or 1892, and somewhere in the then North Western Provinces and Oudh. Chaube was a graduate of Presidency College, Calcutta. To compatriots in his village of Gopalpur, Gorakhpur district, and to scholars of Hindi and Persian in the region, he was known as a linguistically and poetically talented man, able to turn even newspaper...

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2. The Golden Manuscripts

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pp. 19-37

One of the main features of the colonial British collection and publication of Indian folk narratives in the second half of the nineteenth century was the transformation of orality not just into written words, but into the written words of another language. As Indian folklore has been textualized, it has moved from dialects to foreign language(s). The reason for and implication of this were the same: the pub...

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3. Crooke, Chaube, and Colonial Folkloristics, 1868–1914

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pp. 38-55

In 1871, when Crooke came to India, the first collection of Indian folktales in English, Mary Frere’s Old Deccan Days, was three years old and selling well in England (Frere 1868). The second half of the nineteenth century was not only when folklore collection in India began, but also when it peaked. Pandit Chaubeand William Crooke produced their works only in the century’s last decade, when...

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4. Post-colonial Conclusions

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pp. 56-60

Does our knowledge of Chaube, his role in Crooke’s work, and his self-perception have any meaning today? What does it add to the history of Indian folklore research? Are we only setting the records straight? Why does that matter? Definitive answers to these questions may emerge over time, and some possibilities can be the emergence of Chaube affects the way we perceive the history of Indian...

Part II. Tales from the Manuscripts of Chaube and Crooke

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pp. 61-62

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Colors of Life: Tales 1 to 87

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pp. 63-187

Colors of life fill the narratives in this section. Narratives of everyday lives, social practices and structures, questions and dilemmas, and matters of life and death are the subjects of the tales in this section. They are the tales of the rich, the poor, the ordinary, the special, the thieves, the spies, the wise, the cunning, the learned, the pretentious, the kings. There was once a certain King who had a wise and able vizier. It so happened after...

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So Wise Some Women Are: Tales 88 to 103

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pp. 188-221

Lady Sweetmeat felt that a great wrong was being done her by the people; everyone ate sweets and this was very hard on her. So she went to the Kotw

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Magical Mind: Tales 104 to 125

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pp. 222-281

In a certain city there was a Gaur Brahman Bag Datt by name. He had two wives named Manoram

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Corrective Measures: Tales 126 to 158

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pp. 282-310

The Rájá was once walking in the streets of his city and met a beggar to whom he gave a gold Muhar. The beggar said “I won’t accept alms till you first give me a slap in the face.” The Rájá did so and then his alms were accepted. He asked the cause of this strange matter and the beggar...

Appendix: Aarne-Thompson Tale Type Index Numbers

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pp. 311-312

Glossary of Indian Terms within Tales

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pp. 313-314


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pp. 315-318

General Index for Part I: Chapters 1–4

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pp. 319-320

Index: Contributors of Tales

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pp. 321-322

Index: Places That Contributed Tales

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pp. 323-325

Index: Numbers and Titles of Tales

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pp. 326-332

E-ISBN-13: 9780253112026
E-ISBN-10: 0253112028
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253345448

Page Count: 344
Illustrations: 2 b&w photos, 6 figures, 1 bibliog., 1 index
Publication Year: 2006