Archive for the ‘india’ Category

As some of you have reminded me that Panchatantra tales, like the ones I shared with you here and there, are by far not the only Indian fables, I’ve decided to do some searching. Found a great source and here be the first fable:

The Fish and the Rain

The water in a lake was fast drying up. The fish were all alarmed. A meeting of the animals in the lake was held. The crocodile, as the most powerful among them, took the chair. The tortoise made a long speech, and concluded by saying: “Therefore it is, I do not care whether it is land or water. It is the same to me; I can live in either.”

if they had been flying fish...

The crab made another long speech, and, in the end, observed: “No less with me, brethren. Should the lake dry up I will go to the neighbouring fields and live in the holes.” The snails, the leeches, the water-snakes, and various other animals, gave some excuse or other to keep away from praying for rain.

The crocodile summed up, saying: “I care not where I live. On land I find better food than in water, for you must all admit that a hare, or rabbit, or some other land animal of the kind, is much better fare than fish or frogs.” At this there was loud applause, and the meeting came to an end.

But the poor fish, who could not live out of water for one moment, thought it their duty, however, to pray; so they did.

Very soon the sky was overcast, the clouds poured, and the lake was full. All the animals rejoiced at it. The fish, with heartfelt pride and pleasure, observed:

“Heaven blesseth the many for the few!”

Text source: Indian Fables. Collected and edited by P. V. Ramaswami Raju. With 18 plates by F. Carruthers Gould. London 1901.
Image source: fresco of a flying fish from the bronze age excavation of Phylakopi on Milos


First impression: Really, really different from those Panchatantra tales.

Second impression: Or maybe not. Because the moral still confuses me. It must be a case of cultural mistranslation because well, I expected something to make all those non-carers realise that there is more to life than seeing only yourself. Huh.

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Most animal tales that are included in children’s book are…well, the pg-rated ones. Either through selection or through editing. This lead to the broadly held belief that folktales are generally maybe not without violence but certainly without obscenities and sex. That they not ever even mention the unmentionables.

Let’s have a look at one of the truly classical collections of fables, the Panchatantra, and see how that goes… (more…)

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Last Sunday I told you a tale of the Panchatantra already but how can one be enough? This one features – surprise! – no animals as actors but…well, also not quite only humans…

The Brahmin who Saves His Life by Asking a Question

In a forest somewhere, there is a Rakshasa – a demon – called Tshandakarman, the One Who Acts Wildly. When this one once wandered about, he met a Brahmin. Instantly he jumped upon his shoulders and said: “Ho! Go on!” The Brahmin whose heart was contracting with fear, went on his way with him. As he became aware of his feet which were as soft as the inner parts of a lotus flower, he asked: “Ho! Why do you have such soft feet?” (more…)

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What always fascinated me is the fact that while some folktales are completely endemic, some motifs but also whole folktales are apparently almost universal in their appeal – either forming in different places at once or being easily transferred across cultural borders. Or: Going global before that became a buzz word.

Let’s follow one such an example. Namely the animal tale of The Fox and the Stork (or The Fox and the Crane in some versions). If you look at its adaptation in the arts alone, you’ll be dazzled…

Tile, Museum Vleeshuis Danish Curch Wall Painting Ebstorfer Medaillonlaken

But of course, it’s spread even more in it textual/oral form. Today this fable/animal tale can be found all over Europe – I have found ones in Germany, France, England, Sweden, Turkey, Greece and also in Estonia and Russia and I’m sure you’d find many more if you’d take a harder look. Well yes, you might say, no wonder as it all comes from the fable by Aesop and it’s well-known by now that his fables had a huge impact on European folklore. Right you are. But what then about the same fable also existing in India and in Mongolia? Let’s have a look… (more…)

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