1. Folk Literature
A major part of folklore includes the oral tradition, where songs, stories, riddles, proverbs, sayings etc. are transmitted through generations.
 
Oral folklore is the throbbing pulse of the people. It constitutes the themes of wisdom conceived in the minds of the ordinary people during work or play. This rich wealth of folk imaginations has a very great role, when one goes through the history of any language.
 
The folk songs in Malayalam were related to agriculture, worship, war and other day - to- day activities. Often they depicted the sorrow and hardship of a group. Different occupational groups had their own songs. The men pushing heavy loads in their carts, attained some sort of relaxation when they loudly sang songs. The boatmen in the rivers sang in the darkness of the night giving hope to the weary, lonesome traveller. Thus a song goes:
 
  "Dusky girl with long hair,
For you, he has arisen in the east
I shall give you gold and garments
Get ready girl, get ready girl."
 
 
The insecurity of the Namboodiri woman who considers her husband as her ultimate wealth is portrayed in a song which is still sung by them during the Tiruvathira festival. The song is as follows:
 
  'Listen to the mangala atira song,
Long back in Tretayuga
A maiden was born.
The maiden used to extol Parvati from childhood
She used to observe all penances………
 
 
The tale goes on to say that the girl was married . On the same day after marriage her husband died. Goddess Parvati and her friends were dressing up after bath, when they heard the girl's lament. She ran to her husband Lord Siva and said that she too would remain like a widow, unless he brought the girl's husband back to life. The Lord, then brought him back to life and they lived happily even after. Many nursery rhymes in Malayalam are even now very popular. The child asks:
 
  'Crow, crow, where is your nest?
Is there a young one in the nest?
If you don't give food to the young one?
The young one will cry.
Child, child, will you give me the ghee cake in your hand?
No, I will not give the ghee cake.
Alas, crow you cheated!'
 
 
These rhymes and folk songs have different versions in different areas. Such variation is characteristic of folklore. So, one cannot exactly say which version is correct. One can just state that they all exist at one and the same time. Many a time, these folk renderings do not convey any meaning. They are just nonsense verses, aimed at attaining a rhythm that pleases the ear.
 
Among the folk songs, the most impressive are the northern ballads (vatakkan paattukal) which depict in detail the valorous deeds of the heroes of north Malabar. Parallel to this there are southern ballads (tekkan paattukal) too. However, northern ballads, have achieved more popularity than the latter. Among the northern ballads, the story of Unniyarcha is the most popular one. Unniyarcha, the story says, was a woman who was proficient in the use of arms. The ballad starts with an account of how exquisitely beautiful she is. It narrates a duel between Unniyarcha's brother Aromal and Aringotar. Aromal takes his cousin Chandu as his helper. Chandu hates Aromal's family because Unniyarcha had once spurned his love for her. Aromal, in the duel, kills Aringotar, but while resting with his head on Chandu's lap is stabbed by the latter. Later on, he dies. Aromal's death is later avenged by Unniyarcha's son Aromalunni.
 
The other great ballad from north Kerala, focuses on the Nair family called Thacholi. The protagonist, Othenan is a valorous youth who is always facing problems of a serious kind. His elder brother Komappan, in contrast is peace loving and calm. Othenan's romantic love to Cheeru is told in a very amusing way. The ballad narrates the last adventure of Othenan vividly. Othenan goes to a temple festival where he is encountered by his rival Kurukkal who attacks him with a gun, and kills him.
 
It is surmised that the northern ballads have their origin during the 16th and the 17th centuries. The victory of the gun over the sword in Thacholi Othenan, symbolizes the Western colonization in north Kerala.
 
The Southern Ballads extol the glories of the heroes of south Kerala. One of them deals with the fight between the ruler of Neyyattinkara and the Prince of Attingal. Another ballad, 'The Ballad of Kanyakulam' has as its hero Iravi Kutti Pillai who was the prime minister, as well as the commander-in-chief of Venad. He was betrayed by his associates in a battle. The picturesque description of the battle where Iravi is struck from behind is one of the best pieces of Kerala folk literature.
 
The folk tales in Malayalam also have a lot of practical wisdom and insight, embedded in them. Many of the tales are interactions between man and animal. The popular folk-tale Untan and Unti goes thus: Untan and Unti live near a forest. One day they decide to make rice- cake. So they go to the forest to gather firewood. In the forest they meet a ferocious tiger, who is all set to kill them. They appease the tiger by saying that they would give him a hundred rice cakes that evening. The tiger agrees and the couple set off home. They make the rice cakes, and due to utter greed they eat everything without leaving aside even a morsel for the poor tiger. Now they realize the impending doom. So they do all sorts of tricks-they put thorns on the courtyard, a grinding stone on the door, gooseberries on the staircase, an itch-producing powder on the bed, a bursting fruit in the hearth, a water-snake in the pot, slippery shampoo leaves near the well, and a crocodile in the well. They both hide themselves. The tiger arrives. Thorns prick his legs, the grinding stone hurts his head, he falls down after stamping on the gooseberry, his whole body itches after lying down on the bed, his eyes get hurt when the fruit in the hearth bursts open, the water snake bites him when he puts his hand in the pot to wash his eyes, he slips into the well after stamping the shampoo leaf and the crocodile who is waiting in the well devours him. This story truly unfold the limits to which human treachery can extend. Again there are different kinds of folk tales which deal with different pertinent themes. In addition, Puranic tales were retold in most of the households with sufficient embellishments, that suit the indigenous culture.
 
Proverbs are folk literary devices that are statements about the society. Malayalam has a wealth of proverbs that efficiently portray the social set-up. Some examples are given below:
 
 

"Will the crow, after bathing, become a stork?"
''If woman rules, when a man is present
The house with the pillar, will fall down'
'
"A beautiful woman is not fit for work"

 
 
Riddles also constitute the wealth of folk literature. While proverbs can be used by a single person, riddles are in quiz form and thereby need the involvement of a sender and a listener.
 
Examples:
 
 

Riddle : The pot in the courtyard has no lid.
Answer : well.
Riddle : A hill has two holes.

Answer : nose.

 
 
Folk literature has great importance, since they are true reflections of day-to-day life. Moreover, their transmission from one generation to the next, makes them dynamic effective, and never forgotten.