Buddhist Animal Wisdom Stories

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Authors
McGinnis, Mark W
Issue Date
2004
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Book, Whole
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This is a lovely presentation of forty-four Jataka tales. As the publisher's online advertisement says Author and painter Mark McGinnis has collected over forty of these hallowed popular tales and retold them in vividly poetic yet accessible language, their original Buddhist messages firmly intact. Each story is accompanied with a beautifully rendered full-color painting, making this an equally attractive book for children and adults, whether Buddhist or not, who love fine stories about their fellow wise (and foolish) creatures. I like particularly the lively contemporary style of the texts. The very first tale gives a good example. The drunken dung-beetle challenges the elephant to a duel, and the elephant agrees, chooses his weapon, and defecates on the beetle (9)! The art is simple but expressive. A good example is the self-sacrificing Banyan deer who puts his own head on the sacrificial block (56). There is of course a great deal of classic wisdom here, as in The Fish and the Tortoise (31). Two similar fish come to a tortoise for a judgment on their relative beauty. He describes beauty then in terms of tortoise-beauty. They give up on their argument and go their separate ways. Some classic tales are told differently here, like The Three Fish (66). All three fish are swimming downstream toward the trapping fishermen. Thoughtful cautions that they should turn back. Thoughtless plunges ahead. Over-Thoughtful cannot make up his mind and so follows him. Thoughtful has to play a trick of making both sides of the net appear torn to rescue the two when they are caught by fishermen. The Jackal and the Crow (40) is different from the traditional FC fable. Here both are insufferable flatterers. The wise owl finds their interaction sickening enough to drive her to another part of the forest.
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Weatherhill: Shambala
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