The Wise Fools of Moira and Other Goan Folk Tales

‘Tell us a story’ – that has been the cry of mankind from the first syllable of recorded time. Here is a collection of Goan folk-tales rendered into English by Lucio Rodrigues.

The book contains a wide assortment of animal fables and tales, which reflect a belief in witchcraft and magic in the primitive sense – a feature which they share with the earliest stories of all nations. The cruel step-mother, the witch, the fairies and demons, spells and metamorphoses of humans into animals and trees – all these figure in this collection. Some of these tales have been familiar to us from childhood; they form part of our oral heritage.

Lucio Rodrigues has gone about assiduously collecting these tales, note-book in hand, like John Millington Synge in the Aran Islands, and rendering them into English. These folk tales are set forth in simple, direct prose, which contrasts with the more stylized diction of the essays; and rightly so. In the folk tales the focus of interest is the incident narrated, the folk tale is an anonymous product; in the essay the writer weaves an arabesque of wit and fancy, shot with all the iridescent colours of his personality.

Of course since many of these stories are translated from Konkani, one misses in the translation the tang and flavor of the native idiom, but Lucio’s limpid prose captures their haunting appeal. Some of the stories are interspersed with snatches of song, which were part of the raconteur’s art. The stories bear witness to the other-worldliness and down-to-earthness which is marked feature of the Goan character.

The stories – fantastic, macabre, hilarious – cater to a variety of tastes.

‘The Writ of Destiny’ stands out among these tales. It is connected with the old Goan custom of holding a wake on the sixth day after the birth of a child. The story moves with the inexorableness of doom to its fated conclusion. ‘The Goan Son-in-Law’ and ‘The Wise Fools of Moira’ recount situations with which most of us are familiar, but they never pall. They have a perennial appeal. ‘The Ambitious Fox’, ‘The Fox and the Crocodile’ and ‘A Cure for Tale-Bearing’ belong to the genre of animal fables. They are variations on familiar themes, testifying to a common ancestry of the folk tales and the far-flung family of man.

Whatever the composition of the folk tale, it illustrates the basic elements of human nature and illuminates a primitive morality. Whatever the vicissitudes they have to pass through, the virtuous live happily afterwards. The wicked receive condign punishment. It is Lucio’s achievement that he should have crystallized, sharply and definitively, in this collection the floating mass of tale and legend which constitutes the amorphous oral heritage of the Goan people.
— Frank D’Souza. May 16, 1974. Vilanta House, Dadar
(Slightly adapted from original Forward – AP)

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Lucio Rodrigues

Professor Lucio Rodrigues (1916-73) has been recognized as one of the literary geniuses that Goa has produced. Long after he taught at the Dhempe College, his legacy of literature lives on through his writing and his students.  An authority on Goan folklore, Prof Rodrigues was visiting professor of folklore at the Indiana University, USA, in 1969; his essays in English, as well as those translated from Konkani, were published as Of Soil and Soul and Konkani Folktales after his death in 1973.  A revised edition of this compilation, renamed Abolim, was released on his birth centenary, April 15, 2015, at Porvorim.

Rodrigues had an expansive career as a professor of English Literature at Ramnarain Ruia College, Siddharth College, Sophia College, Elphinstone College in Mumbai and the Karnatak College in Dharwad.

In his later years, he became the head of the Department of English Literature at Dhempe College, Panjim.

A prolific essayist, he contributed to various newspapers and magazines such as The Navhind Times, The Times of India, Goa Today and others.

Edition Notes

First published by Lucio Rodrigues as,
Soil and Soul and Konkani Folk Tales (1974)

This ebook edition published by Goa,1556. in 2020

Ebook Content (c) Estate of Lucio Rodrigues 2020


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