Children’s Literature in a Quarantined Community | Adamas University

Children’s Literature in a Quarantined Community

Children’s literature

Children’s Literature in a Quarantined Community

In the current quarantine times it is important to support each other and to build up a stronger and healthier community feeling. Together as a team and with immense cooperation we can win over such difficult and trying times. These words are not new. These are the survival strategies which human beings have taken up from the time immemorial.

 

It is only that our current illusion of remaining connected to the world that has turned us into lonely beings and has made us forget these old survival tactics. It seems that the current crisis of the human existence has again reminded human beings of humanity. As human beings we were suddenly reminded of our co existence in the community together.

 

The lessons of coexistence have to be learnt afresh. These age old values of sharing, compassion and a concept of collective experience is the essence of various oral narratives around the world. These oral narratives were basically designed to educate the children of the community. But this wonderful world of oral narratives has always fascinated people of every age group.

 

These oral narratives from around the world have one trait in common. Most of these narratives talk about the responsibilities which human beings have towards their community and towards nature. These narratives always remind us that we are a part of nature. Most of these narrative uses incidents and symbols to imply that human beings are not born to dominate or exploit nature rather we exist to nurture our natural surroundings. 

 

Almost all communities around the world have got narratives of origin. For instance some origin stories of certain indigenous communities in Canada describe the aid of the natural elements given to the human beings to secure land and to thrive on it. Such narratives also talk about the sense of eternal gratitude which human beings must have towards nature and all its sources. Ancient Indians believed in worshipping all the natural resources which later on took the form of gods. Same is the case with the Egyptian stories of origin and Mesopotamian cultural discourse. Of course one cannot forget the Greco-Roman tradition and the oral narratives which describe the story of origin and now are a part of the Greco-Roman mythology.

Again coming back to the idea that children’s literature is a blanket term. Generally the oral narratives we are talking about are accommodated under the broad category of children’s literature, of which the art of storytelling is the key component. Storytelling is considered to be a fascinating medium of instruction till date. Children learn to think and evaluate incidents around them from these oral narratives. These narratives have an objective to train the children of their respective community but at the same time they are also valuable pieces of knowledge for grownups. For example Jataka Tales told by Gautama Buddha to preach the lessons of life.

 

Keeping the idea of instruction in mind let us now look into the aspect of nature in these oral narratives. We have discussed that how these narratives try to train the children about their responsibilities towards their community and society with an emphasis towards the fact that human beings are a part of nature.

In this digital world where we all are netizens, survive under the illusion of remaining connected to each other. In our fancy to remain virtually connected to the big bright world outside we generally forget to remain connected with the little yet bright world around us sometimes even neglecting that. Children nowadays hardly go out to play. They hardly listen to any story. The art of oral story telling is gradually losing its grounds. Yes though it sounds bad yet we have to accept the fact that we live and depend on digital world for our survival. Thus we cannot do away with this virtual world around us but maybe we can look for a way out to harmonize and to strike a balance between the digital and the natural world.

At present the term quarantine seemed to be very popular. Delve deep in thought and we will probably end up realizing that how quarantined we actually were in our digital world long before COVID-19 invaded our real world. Today as we are literally unable to make it outside our home, thus these digital tools are literally connecting us. Our long lost connection with the nature around us may get reconnected n the current hard times and the digital tools around us may play a vital role in truly reminding us of the real natural world around us and our responsibilities towards the same.  

Today’s digital platforms are introducing some animated audio-visual series based on oral narratives. These series are technically meant to cater the child audience though anybody can watch and enjoy them. These audio-visual initiatives for children, which are inspired from oral narratives, are trying to remind the child of the digital world about his/her responsibilities towards the real and the natural world around him/her.

Masha and the Bear (2009) by Oleg Kuzovkov, is one such creation. The stories of Masha depict a mischievous little girl and her animal friends from a wood nearby.  She wonders around in the woods on her own. Masha’s family is never depicted in the stories, as if the forest and the animals in it are her family. She shares a very special bond with the Bear, who acts more like a guardian towards her, just like a parent. 

Masha’s little stories and adventures with all her friends are inspired by various Russian oral narratives. Masha is very mischievous yet very helpful. She tries to make the bear happy though many a times she ends up in a mess. Similarly the bear happily cleans up and tolerates all her mess and in turn tries to make her happy. For instance, Masha’s desire to go to school inspired the bear to use his skills in carpentry, sewing, teaching and so on to prepare a school like atmosphere for Masha in his own house.

There are also instances when the bear wants to prepare Jams using fruits to keep them in store for his period of hibernation, but he feels very tiresome to do all that amount of work alone. Masha, with help of other animals, helps the bear to accomplish the task. Masha, though is little, she is very clear about her ideas of sharing the natural resources with other animals and to coexist with them. She is very responsible towards her friends in the woods. She tries to help them out whenever they are in need. Of course she gets the same in return.

Both Masha and the Bear compliment each other’s loneliness.  This series is now available on digital platforms like Netflix, Youtube and so on. The series was translated into twenty five languages and was broadcasted in almost one hundred nations around the world. Masha depicts the concept of coexistence of humans with their natural surroundings and resources. She believes in sharing love, food and shelter with her little community of friends who are animals of a forest.

Through this series, Kuzovkov has tried to take us back to the long forgotten values of community feeling and sharing the natural resources and its importance for the human existence. Masha and the Bear is like an old wine in a new bottle. Like a well-wisher she portrays the fact that even when we remain glued to our computers we must not ignore our responsibilities towards the community as it is the key to overcome and survive any difficult time.

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