TITLE: Tales and Legends from India
AUTHOR: Ruskin Bond
PUBLISHER: Rupa Publications
NO. OF PAGES: 160
FORMAT: Kindle E-book
GENRE: Short Stories; Folk Tales; Fables; Indian Mythology
Do I recommend it? Not Really! Only a handful of stories are worth reading.
As per Goodreads: Here are tales from different parts of the country, from followers of different faiths; stories of kings and commoners, tribal people, and townsmen. Included in this collection are stories, painstakingly culled and thoughtfully crafted, from the Mahabharata (‘Shiva’s Anger’ and ‘Shakuntala’); the Jataka (‘The Hare in the Moon’ and ‘The Crane and the Crab’) and from regional folklore (‘The Tiger-King’s Gift’ and ‘The Happy Herdsman’). With detailed annotations on the sources of each of these stories, Tales and Legends from India showcases the unique and wonderful ethos of India, as told by its most beloved storyteller, Ruskin Bond.
Tales and Legends from India is a collection of 25 short tales, divided into three sections, namely, Tales from the Epics, Tales from the Jataka, Regional Tales and Legends. These tales, as you can probably figure out, include Gods (not much of Goddesses), sages, kings (but not much of queens), king’s daughters (princesses), and their husbands (mostly princes), curses, boons, sacrifices, animals who can talk, royal marriages, friendships, pride, demons, herdsman, ghosts, fairies, and mortal humans.
These last couple of months, I’ve been reading books on Indian Mythology. This book came to my rescue when I needed a few short tales to squeeze into my busy work schedule and erratic mood swings. While I was scanning my Kindle Library, I found this book in that pile and immediately started reading it. Especially because Ruskin Bond himself had collected and edited these tales.
Since I have not read extensively in the genre of Indian Mythology, the first section of the book was informative. Reading about the Gods, and their divine powers, famous sages, and their curses, and the tragedies and lives of young princes and princesses, were all very fun.
The second section contained tales from Jataka that are about the various births of Buddha in both animal and human forms. This section included tales of friendships, pride, and humility. Also, includes a tale that shows the perception of beauty among us mortals. With each birth, Buddha imparted some values and virtues and these stories intend to do just that. Clearly, the best section of the three in this book.
The third and final section, my least favourite one, included tales that were super weird and made no sense to me. However, my most favourite tale in this entire book is under this section.
I was foolishly expecting the magic of Bond’s writing in this book which is why I feel a bit disappointed. I’m also astonished by the fact that these tales were written for children and how backdated most of these stories were. Not all of these tales are required reading for children and they can easily skip these.
I did not like how most of these tales were about princesses and them getting married off to princes or how they affect the lives of their husbands. There’s only one tale of a brave princess but even she had to prove the value of her words (in the guise of a male warrior) in order to be taken seriously by her husband. As mentioned earlier, these tales were quite backdated in case of gender dynamics, and other themes, and I believe we need newer, better, and more appropriate stories for the children of this era.
Psst, and I hope I get to write some of them myself.
My most favorite tale, A Battle of Wits, was a delight to read. Even though it includes regional biases, it ends up standing against it. There’s at least something to learn from this tale. And the tales from Indian Mythology in the first section of this book are also available in other books, I think.
NOTE: The illustrations in this book were astounding. I spent more time staring at these pictures than reading the book!
Excerpts that I loved from the Book:
“…if only men would go back to the real teaching of the Vedas, they would find that there was no need to plough the ground. In ancient days, the earth yielded all that was required. Herbs and plants grew of themselves.”
“Every day since I was a boy, I have been going to the king’s palace and saying, ‘As your liberality, so your virtue.’ Every time I received a rupee. But today the king has threatened to sacrifice me to the Goddess Durga if I do not explain the meaning of the saying to him. Now isn’t that unreasonable? Why should anyone want to know the meaning of something that has been accepted as the truth for centuries?”
Quick Question: Have you read any book by Ruskin Bond? Which is your favorite book by him?