fables of conflict and intrigue

At last, I’ve got my hands on Ramsay Wood’s second volume of Kalila and Dimna. (I have mentioned his first volume before) This one is subtitled fables of conflict and intrigue. I had sent a copy to M, and had accidentally sent my copy to him as well.

Once again, Wood’s modern retelling of the Panchatantra stories is a rich, spicy broth, thought-provoking and constantly surprising.

The first story is the one about the monkey and the crocodile. It’s a tale I’ve come across before: crocodile gives monkey a ride on his back over the water. Then he tells monkey he’s going to eat his heart. Monkey says he’s left his heart back in his tree, so croc takes him back. Once there, of course, monkey reveals that his heart is in the normal place.

I knew the story from Paul Galdone’s picture book, where it is told very simply. Galdone’s illustrations are famously wonderful:

I see there’s also a version by Gerald McDermott who’s published lots of great trickster tales from around the world:

But Ramsay Wood’s is a much richer and multi-layered telling:

Crocodile doesn’t really want to do the dirty on his friend monkey, but his wife is jealous of the friendship and asks for monkey’s fig-sweetened heart. Monkey tricks his way out with the heart-in-the-tree ploy.

And when monkey escapes he reluctantly tells crocodile some other stories, which lead onto others, 1001-night-style. The first tale is about the donkey “without heart or ears”, a fable that is ancient in both east and west.

There’s lots more of Ramsay Wood’s book to go;  it’s a book to be savoured slowly…

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1 Comment »

  1. Geetha said

    Nice story. But it would be more nice if more illustrations were there. Children like more of illustrations.

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