Religious Studies and Theology, Vol 33, No 1 (2014)

What The Sister Knew: A South Indian Folk Epic from the Sister’s Point of View

Brenda E.F. Beck
Issued Date: 17 Jun 2014


This essay looks beneath the surface of the “Annanmar Katai,” a major folk epic from Tamilnadu, to discover how the lone female in a set of three siblings leads a life very different from that of her two elder brothers. In the absence of their parents, these men enjoy their life as twin rulers of a small kingdom. Meanwhile their sister sits alone on her swing inside the family palace. Her brothers undertake many wondrous adventures while she slowly develops her own ability to see into the future through dreams. Gradually, however, this unmarried girl discovers that her brothers are not keeping their side of the traditional sibling contract. Brothers should listen to and protect their female siblings. Their sisters (especially virgin ones) will then reciprocate by magically transferring their stored-up powers to their brothers’ swords. When, in this folk legend, two powerful brothers withhold information, their sister starts to keep her insights secret too. The family kingdom now starts to fall apart as this key understanding between a sister and her brothers grows frayed. In sum, the essay reveals the major importance given to the maintenance of a positive, life-long brother-sister bond of reciprocity in traditional Tamil culture.

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DOI: 10.1558/rsth.v33i1.65


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