Resuming this feature after a two week “break”. This feature, all about celebrating the books already on your TBR, is one I’ve borrowed from Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies. To participate, one simply picks one of the books on one’s TBR every Wednesday, and writes a post about it (usually what it’s all about, what makes you want to read it, where you got it, and such).
Today’s pick, Listen O King! Five-and-Twenty Tales of Vikram and the Vetal.
The Baital Pachisi or (twenty-five stories of the Vetal) is a collection of Indian legends/stories, many versions and translations of which were written, the earliest dating back to the Eleventh Century (though based on material which is even older). The two major versions available are by Sivadasa and Jambhaladatta (the eleventh century version by Somadeva is now lost). The basic story of a legendary king, Vikramaditya, who has promised a sorcerer that he will capture a celestial spirit, a Baital or Vetal who hangs upside down on a tree. On each attempt he makes at capturing Baital, the latter tells him a story ending with a riddle. If Vikramaditya cannot answer, Baital will remain his captive but if he knows the answer and keeps it quiet, his head will explode. And so each attempt continues on cyclically with Baital telling a story and posing a riddle and Vikram having to answer it since he always knows. This happens twenty-three times but the twenty fourth….
This edition: The edition I picked up (ordered online a few weeks ago) is a 2016 Puffin edition which though written as a version for children has a cover that I simply couldn’t resist. This version is based on both Sivadasa’s and Jambhaladatta’s works and has twenty-eight stories as a result.
The author: This version is adapted by Deepa Agarwal, author, poet, and translator, who has written over fifty books, both children and adult (from the blurb).
Why I want to read this one: I am familiar with many of the Vikram and Baital stories having seen TV adaptations, animated and with ‘people’, and having read versions in the children’s magazine Chandamama, but I have never read a full version of these stories, so all I knew was the cyclical/loop in which the stories went. In fact, I don’t even know why Vikram had to capture a Baital in the first place. I will read a full version at some point, but I thought this a good place to start, and the cover…
[From an 1870 translation of Baital Pachisi]
Source: Illustrations by Ernest Griset [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Do you enjoy reading old folk stories and legends? Do you prefer translations of original works or re-tellings? What are your favourites? Looking forward to hearing about them!