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Literary Traditions in North Sumatra

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Chapter Summary

Batak literature is considered as an oral tradition, in spite of the presence of Batak manuscripts in libraries, museums and private collections across the world. These ancient manuscripts deal with magic and ritual, yet the knowledge of a script apparently did not induce a written literature among the Batak peoples of North Sumatra, as Lode Brakel remarked in his article on the 'Folk literatures of Indonesia'. In Van der Tuuk's Toba Batak Grammar, Batak literature is characterized as the literature consisting of prescriptions dealing with divination, stories, and invocations to spirits, laments, ditties, long-winded poems, and narrative riddles. The chapter discusses research in North Sumatra, which shows that in Dairi storytelling literary genres are combined. The performance of a story includes laments, prayers, proverbs and maxims as well as songs, a genre that was known yet received little attention in the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries.

Keywords: Batak literature; Dairi storytelling; North Sumatra



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