The difference between local Malay folklore and western bedtime stories is the ENDING part.
For those who grew up watching bedtime stories (e.g. Cinderella, Snow White, Thumbelina, etc.), you must have noticed that the stories always end with, “and they live happily ever after.” Knowing the after the hardship both hero and lady main character had to endure, the ending had surely made you smile and gave you so much comfort. Somehow, the ending reflects HOPE.
As one grows up and very much exposed by this type of stories, there is no doubt that one’s personality and attitude may have also be influenced by the content of the stories. Life is not easy – similarly depicted throughout the stories; the characters are often abused by the antagonist characters. Bedtime stories content focuses on the main characters’ personal attributes; which are very much true in real life -- there will always be good people and bad people. Despite having tough times, the way these stories end (i.e. happy ending) creates a notion of HOPE; whereby things will get better -- so long that we keep ourselves positive.
Perhaps, this could provide a simple explanation of how certain people could remain positive; despite being in a ‘terrible’ condition or environment.
In contrast to western bedtime story, local Malay folklores (i.e. Pak Kaduk, Pak Pandir, Mahsuri, etc.) are very heavy with drama and intense content. Most of them never end with a comfortable ending. Instead, the story does not actually end to the listeners/readers. It requires additional assessment and thinking, somehow forcing you to accept whether the ending is beneficial or not to one-self. Often, a few of my friends tease me over the habit of mine to end a story with, “the moral of the story is…” This habit was very much influenced by the local folklore story telling way, which I heard when I was young. It is very normal for a local folklore stories to end with the main characters having to become a victim of his own act. Though along the way we could feel the hardship and extend some sympathy to the character, the thoughts and feelings can be immediately ‘brutalized’ when we know that the character is actually to be blamed.
I supposed this could also provide a simple explanation for Malay (or shall I say, Asian in general) to being labeled as ‘negative’ by others. We see things from a pessimist’s view – thanks to the Cerita dongeng.
Real life includes challenges; whereby one must be able to find a way to keep on moving -- no matter what. Hope could be extremely helpful at tough times -- it allows you to feel less distracted and put you at some (sense of) comfort level. One may be able to see things from positive view, almost all the time, knowing that eventually one will be rewarded for all the trouble/hardship faced. Nevertheless, there will always be a need to be less optimistic over the whole situation. Being too comfortable often makes people to stray, and this could create more trouble or pro-long the hardship one is facing.
In summary, there should be a balance between optimistic and being pessimist in life.
PS: I am just glad that I had the opportunity to learn from both bedtime stories and local folklores.