Chemaline Anak Osup
This article examines the Iban oral literature (traditions) of the Iban society which includes fables, folklore, legends and myths that are orally transmitted and learned but continue to exist in oral form until the end of the 20th century. The objective of this article is stress the importance of oral literature in the Iban society because it is in this vast and incredibility beautiful literature that the cosmology of Iban society is revealed, and through this also the other people can perceive the soul of Iban culture. However, the Iban oral literature is very fragile as it remains in the memory of the elder generation who are rapidly dying out, and it may not survive long under the conditions of modernization. Therefore, the Iban society must preserve this oral literature in order to maintain its roots to the past as well as their dignity. Yet, this oral literature is critical for anthropological study because it provides information about the traditional Iban life. This article shows that, although the Iban lived in relatively isolated farming communities, they had the time to let their creativity expand and reveal or reflect the nature of their lives, their sorrows and joys, and their relationship through songs and chants, folklore, myths and legends, fables, stories and epics as well as riddles and sayings. This implicates that there is indeed an urgent need for immediate action to recover the dying oral literature because there is a sharp decline in the numbers of ritual specialists who can interpret the metaphors and words in the complex and aesthetic oral literature which contributes to the vast and accumulating universal knowledge of culture and traditions. It is significant to suggest that the Iban society must treasure their oral literature and translate these traditions before it is too late or dying out, as well as keeping it safe for them to appreciate and enjoy, otherwise this oral literature will be swallowed by the era of modernization in the Iban society itself.