The Chinese Text:Professor Wan-Chuan Hu
The Advisor of English Home Page:Academician Ching-Chuan Cheng
English Translator:Dr. Yuan-Wen Chi
English Editor:Mr. Jeffrey N. C. Cuvilier

IV、 Conclusion總結

The difference between folk literature and written literature lies in the fact that the latter requires a unique creativity on the part of the writer himself. The text of the written literature is unchangeable, while no one knows who the author of a folk tale is, or indeed, whether it is appropriate to consider folk literature to be the product of a single author as people pass these stories and songs from mouth to mouth, improvising constantly in their singing and telling. Inevitably, something changes as these tales pass from one place to another, though usually in the details, not the main structure. So, the first characteristic of folk literature is its collective authorship. The second characteristic is its mobility and fluidity. For that matter, we must not proclaim that we have collected a great volume of data from somewhere and that since they are something of the same or similar kind, it is not necessary to collect from some other places, because the data are probably the same. Obviously it is wrong to think like that. I can tell you that there is a Taiwanese ballad beginning with “ge-kng-kng-siu-chai-long” (“月光光秀才郎” or “Shining Moonlight, the Young Literati.”) There are more than 10 ballads of this kind that have been collected just from Taichung County. These 10 ballads are similar in the main, but there are nonetheless variations among them. If we undertake further efforts to collect them, we may find a dozen more versions of this song, and a general survey island wide will find many more, because different localities present disparate local colors, linguistic features, and folk customs and belief. We are able to present the variorum by means of general survey. Moreover, the same is true with regards to folk literature. For example, the stories of the Mouse Getting Married (老鼠娶親) and Ho‧-Ko‧-Po (虎姑婆) appear in forms of different plots by being told here and there. The different plots reflect the disparate features circulating in different places. This is the second characteristic of folk literature–changeability. By collecting the different versions, we can undertake research professionally, mapping out the difference of narrative form and content in terms of localities. A story or ballad fully researched and investigated is likely to reveal patterns of Taiwanese immigration history and features of cultural distribution, etc.

This article has ranged from the importance of folk literature and what folk literature is, to the differences between folk literature and written literature. In extending an invitation to individuals interested in this field to cooperate with one another to preserve, for own homeland, these stories and ballads which have been passed down generation after generation, I hope earnestly that we can set out to do investigation work, so that the children of next generation will know more than the story of George Washington chopping down the cherry tree: we have our own stories, which our children should know. We also hope that all of us come together to preserve the disappearing native heritage. First of all, we have to gather what remains of lost folk literature, for those who can tell stories or sing ballads are ageing day-by-day. If we do not work diligently, and in time, it will be too late for anything but regrets. Let us quickly fill in the past 40 years of blanks. Certainly someone may ask that there were traditional opera and lyrical arts of singing and talking for popular entertainment (說唱藝術) in early years in Taiwan. Aren’t they branches of folk literature? Certainly. What we want right now is the concept of coordinating teamwork to collect and sort out the data. Due to the rapid changes in the past 40 years in Taiwanese society, the arts of singing and talking for entertainment did not exist actually. The storytelling broadcasts at the moment is nothing but “telling something by books,” which is far-removed from the orality of folk literature, and no longer qualifies as folklore. And folk opera, such as gu-le-koa (牛犁歌; or “Ox Plow Song”) is seldom performed. As scholars have already devoted much time and energy to the study of traditional opera and music, we need not dwell upon it here.

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