The Jataka stories refer to a large group of ancient folk tales originating from the Indian cultural sphere. They tell about the previous births of the Buddha. They are morally instructive stories in which the main character is an animal, human, or superhuman being seeking to do good. Within the Theravada Buddhist tradition they were gathered together into a collection of 547 stories written in the Pali language and added to the Pali Canon, while the main character was described as an early incarnation of the Buddha. The Jataka tales became important story material for theatre in the Buddhist regions of Southeast Asia.