The Panchatantra Translated from the Sanskrit

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Authors
Edgerton, Franklin (editor,) (translator)
Issue Date
1965
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Book, Whole
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This book reprints Edgerton's translation first published in Panchatantra Reconstructed (1924) by the American Oriental Society. His introduction gives a good historical account of the history of the Panchatantra, noting that the 1570 English translation by Thomas North, the first descendant of the Panchatantra in English, came from an Italian version of a Latin version of a Hebrew version of an Arabic version of a (lost) Pahlavi version of some (lost) Sanskrit version of the original Panchatantra (13). The introduction notes two individual fables that Edgerton sees as coming from India into the corpus of Greek fables attributed to Aesop, and he discusses them at some length: Ass in Panther's Skin and Ass without Heart and Ears. The first Western instance of the former is in Lucian (second century AD). After that it is found in Babrius and Avianus. The latter story does not occur in Western literature until Babrius, where it is badly garbled, though still recognizable as a descendant of the same original (15). Edgerton also traces the frame-story of Book V of the Panchatantra, The Brahman and the Mongoose. The introduction is also noteworthy for its quotable comment on the morals of the fables in the Panchatantra: The so-called 'morals' of the stories have no bearing on morality; they are unmoral, and often immoral. They glorify shrewdness, practical wisdom, in the affairs of life, and especially of politics, of government (11). I read Books III-V, a total of some fifty pages, whereas Books I-II (which we know better perhaps through Kalila and Dimna) occupy some eighty pages. The T of C at the beginning lists the stories within each of the five books. Book III takes some thirty-five pages for War and Peace. It presents the story of the Sinon-like crow Long-Lived, who infiltrates the society of the enemy owls and eventually works their overthrow by fire. The flood of proverb-heavy talk almost drowns the great stories in this version! Book IV, The Loss of One's Gettings, presents the frame-story of the ape and crocodile. The latter's wife, jealous over the time the crocodile spends with the ape, is said to need an ape's heart, and the crocodile virtually kidnaps the ape through a false invitation to his home in order to get the ape's heart for his wife. Book V is Hasty Action, or, the Brahman and the Mongoose. The mongoose safely defends the brahman's child from a snake, but the brahman misunderstands the blood on the mongoose's face and foolishly kills him as the murderer before learning the truth that the mongoose had successfully protected the man's child..
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A.S. Barnes and Co./Thomas Yoseloff Ltd.
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