The miraculous characters in Vietnamese fairy tales: Ethnic influences from Southeast Asia

Author: Nguyen Thi Dung (University of Labour and Social Affairs)
Speaker: Nguyen Thi Dung
Topic: Narrative and metanarrative
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


Like other genres of folk literature, fairy tales of Vietnamese ethnicity with miraculous character systems become strongly influenced by Southeast Asia’s historical-cultural region. Apart from being influenced by farming, Buddhism, Confucianism, urbanism, Vietnamese fairy tales are deeply influenced by ethno-linguistic elements. Consequently, fairy tales do not preserve their root identities, but shift and emerge over time.

The study investigates and classifies the miraculous tales of peoples of Vietnam with strange characters (fairies, gods, Buddha, devils) in linguistic and ethnographic groups, and in high-to-low ratios. Here the study expands on, evaluates, correlates, and differentiates global miraculous characters, and describes influences of creation of miraculous characters in these fairy tales. The author affirms the value of this character system within the fairy tales, and develops conceptions of global aesthetic views.

To conduct the research, the author applies statistical methods, documentary surveys, type comparison methods, systematic approaches, synthetic analysis methods, and interdisciplinary methods (cultural studies, ethnography, psychoanalysis). The author conducted reading of and referring to the miraculous fairy tales of the peoples of Vietnam with strange characters. 250 fairy tales were selected from 32 ethnic groups of Vietnam, which have the most types of miraculous characters, classifying these according to respective language groups, through an ethnography. The author compares sources to determine characteristics of each miraculous character; and employs system methods to understand the components of characters. The author analyzes and evaluates the results based on the results of the survey and classification.

Within the framework of the article, the author focuses on the following two issues: Some general features of the geographical conditions and history of Vietnam in the context of Southeast Asia’s ancient and medieval periods; Surveyed results of virtual characters in the fairy tales of Vietnam from the perspective of language, yet accomplished through an ethnography. The results of the study indicate a calculation and quantification of magical characters in the fairy tales of Vietnamese.

This study contributes to the field of linguistic anthropology in that it presents the first work to address the system of virtual characters in the fairy tales of Vietnam in terms of language, while it surveys different types of material, origins formed, and so forth.

Keywords: miraculous, characters, Vietnamese, languages, ethnic.