Under the Banyan Tree

by R. K. Narayan

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Describe how Nambi kept the villagers of Somal enthralled by his stories in “Under the Banyan Tree.”

In R. K. Naryan's story “Under the Banyan Tree,” storyteller Nambi enthralls his audience by building their anticipation for his stories, painting extremely detailed verbal pictures of every aspect of the story, leaving his audience longing for more, and touching his listeners' emotions with the magic of his voice. For a while, Nambi allows his listeners to live in another time and place.

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At the height of his storytelling days, Nambi, in R. K. Naryan's story “Under the Banyan Tree,” keeps his audience enthralled by his stories. First, he builds up their anticipation because he does not tell stories every day. Rather he speaks only when he was ready, after much meditation and when he feels the goddess he serves has given him a story to tell. Even on the nights when he lights the lamp in the banyan tree to indicate he will tell a story, he keeps his audience waiting a bit, increasing their excitement.

When he tells a story, Nambi paints a detailed picture. He narrates more than just events. He builds characters. He makes his listeners “see” the places he describes. The listeners are caught up in another place and time, meeting people who seem as real to them as their neighbors.

Then, just as he is in the midst of these details, Nambi will stop for the night. He will leave his audience hanging, eager to hear more of the story. So when Nambi lights the lamp two or three nights later, they come back in droves, ready to hear the next part of the tale. This goes on for days until the whole story has been told.

Further, Nambi has a gift of voice and emotion. The narrator says that “Nambi's voice rose and fell in an exquisite rhythm.” His speech is like magic, and it touches the listeners to the core. They laugh and cry. They curse the villains and laud the heroes. They groan at setbacks and cheer at victories. They even pray for a happy ending. What's more, Nambi never tells the same story twice. Every tale is different with new places, new characters, and new events. For a while, Nambi takes the villagers out of their drab everyday existence, and that's why they keep coming back for more.

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