Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Indian Tales and Legends offers insights into traditions from India using tales that originated in the East before the Christian era. According to J. E. B. Gray, the compiler of the collection, the sources for these stories were written Sanskrit and Pali, the classical languages of Brahmans and Buddhists, respectively. Consequently, these tales highlight the history, beliefs, and values of Hinduism and Buddhism. The collection includes twenty-nine short tales two to nine pages each) and three short tales from “The Vetala’s Stories.” Forming the centerpiece of the book are longer selections from the great epic The Mahabharata (in an episode entitled “Nala and Damayanti”) and six tales from The Ramayana. Transmigration (rebirth on Earth according to one’s deeds in a former existence) and the caste system (rigid barriers for marriage and social interaction set by Hindu society) are fundamental concepts reflected in the tales. Although the collection does not focus on a single theme, all the tales use relatively simple stories to direct readers’ thoughts to higher values. To highlight the collection’s style and content, summaries of three of the tales are offered here.

The Ramayana, one of the major epics of India, written in Sanskrit by the poet Valmiki in 300 b.c., is a long and intense love story focusing on the hero Rama and his unfailingly devoted wife, Sita. An understanding of Hindu ideals can be gained through the events of the epic. In Indian Tales and Legends, The Ramayana is presented in prose, with a series of only six episodes from the epic. In the first, Rama is given the task of...

(The entire section is 698 words.)