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The original Ramayana, attributed to Valmiki, is an epic poem in Sanskrit with origins around 1,000 B.C., that was formalized during the 5th to 3rd century B.C.. It tells of the journeys of Prince Rama, exiled from his father's kingdom for fourteen years due to the machinations of one of the king's wives. He's accompanied by his loyal brother, Lakshmana, and his famously chaste wife, Sita, who is taken by the demon Ravana. After tracking them with the help of Hanuman, a Monkey King-like character, and besieging the city of Lanka, Rama wins back Sita and returns home to take the throne and usher in a period of just rule, though later additions to the story have him banishing Sita because of untrue gossip that she yielded her chastity to Ravana. The characters are all apparently avatars for the various qualities they possess--loyalty, chastity, etc., with Rama being an idealized version of son, husband, and eventually king. As such they serve Hinduism as moral exemplars.

The Indo-Irish author Aubrey Menen, on the other hand, retells the epic in a modern and accessible form that distills it all down to mostly just comedy, while getting rid of such supernatural effects as heroic monkeys and evil demons. The lesson he derives is that: "There are three things which are real: God, human folly, and laughter. Since the first two pass our comprehension, we must do what we can with the third." The result is a humanized and quite amusing novel, but one which has little remaining moral content.


Grade: (B-)


See also:

Asian Literature
Aubrey Menen Links:

    -Aubrey Menen (Wikipedia)
    -Aubrey Menen (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
    -EXCERPT: Women of 1971 (Against Our Will : Men, Women and Rape by Susan Brownmiller)
    -REVIEW: of
-REVIEW: of A Prevalence of Witches by Aubrey Menen (Book Coolie)
    -REVIEW: of A Conspiracy of Women by Aubrey Menen (Beyond Renault)

Book-related and General Links:

    -the Ramayana: an enduring tradition Dedicated to the Glory of Sri Sri Sita Rama
    -Valmiki Ramayana
    -Ramayana (HinduNet)
    -Ramayana (Wikipedia)