Dear book lovers, today I am going to talk about ‘the stories in the tongues of animals’. Got confused? Ok, do not get puzzled. Let’s solve the mystery. Actually, today I am going to review a book, which is a retelling of the Panchatantra. The title of the book is ‘Kalila and Dimna #1 – The Panchatantra Retold’. The book is written by Ramsay Wood. I won this book a couple of months back in a giveaway contest held at goodreads.com and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. The author wrote a personalized message in the book and also sent a beautiful card. Thanks to the author for both the beautiful card and a delightful message. However, before discussing the book, let us talk something about the Panchatantra.
Who does not know about the Panchatantra (five tantras or principles or techniques), a renowned collection of moral tales and stories? It is a rare piece of literature as it discusses complicated topics of philosophy, politics, psychology and human relationships in an uncomplicated manner. And, this is the reason; the beautiful animal fables of the Panchatantra have delighted not only children but also adults in a similar way for a long time. Additionally, the stories of the Panchatantra have been referred to as the best collection of stories. This is a fact, which can hardly be disapproved.
Another important feature of the Panchatantra is the presence of story within story or the overlapping stories. Again, got confused? Well! The Panchatantra has five major stories and each of these major stories contain sub-stories. These sub-stories again contain one or more overlapping stories and it seems that the stories will never end. Interesting, isn’t it? Read the book under review and you will actually come to know what I am trying to say. You will definitely enjoy reading these intersecting stories.
The antiquity of these tales has been debated at many times by different scholars in diverse academic journals. However, the ‘so called’ original Sanskrit work is believed to be composed by Pundit Vishnu Sharma around 200 BCE. It is clear, nevertheless, that Vishnu Sharma did not invent these stories. His work, on the other hand, is believed to be based on the oral traditions passed from one generation to the next ones through the words of mouth. So, when did actually such stories come into picture? The oldest evidence of such stories in India comes from one of the Harappan sites in Gujarat, which can be dated 4000 years back. This site has thrown light on two pot shards depicting two stories (The thirsty Crow and The Cunning Fox) in the tongue of animals. Do you remember The thirsty Crow or The Cunning Fox? I hope…you do remember!
The tales of Panchatantra gained popularity and at a later date got translated into many languages all over the world. A Persian Ibn al-Muqaffa translated the Panchatantra from Middle Persian to Arabic as Kalila and Dimna, which is considered as the first masterpiece of Arabic literature. And, this is this Arabic prose, which Ramsay Wood has tried to retell in a refreshing style. At the same time, he has not focused his retelling only on this Arabic book but tried to go back to the original tales of the Panchatantra.
The book under review begins with an introduction by Doris Lessing, who tells us about the ancient art of storytelling. This introduction is as fascinating to read as the book itself. In the old fashioned school of storytelling, Kalila and Dimna takes us back to our childhood when we used to love reading or hearing these animal fables. The incorporation of various illustrations enhances the quality of its reading. The author has researched well and tried to incorporate as much information as possible without making the book a complicated read. The language is easy to follow and the stories are fast paced. The characters in the book speak for themselves and become alive. The author has done full justice to the original tales of the Panchatantra and should be complimented for that.
I do not know whether the children of present world read such stories or not. If not then they should have given the opportunity to read these stories as these may play an important role in their overall development. The moral lessons given in these stories are easier to digest. These stories are still mesmerizing and the ethical values inherent in them still have relevancy. And, this is where the books like Kalila and Dimna become important.
Well! I enjoyed reading each and every page of this book and do hope that you will also enjoy reading it.