Sunday, March 13, 2022

The Panchatantra

THE PANCHATANTRA (Vishnusharma?, Indian, about 200 BCE)

The Panchatantra ("Five Treatises") is a collection of fables that shares a style and a few stories with the Jataka Tales and Aesop. It's also the source of some stories in the Arabian Nights and other works. Like that later work, the stories are arranged in an embedded "Russian Doll" structure. The (probably fictitious) author, Vishnusharma, is named in the Introduction. Unlike Aesop, each of the five books has a frame story that provides a loose theme.

The Five Books:

  • Book 1, "The Loss of Friends": 30+ fables about Damanaka, a wily jackal serving a lion king; the longest book, making up 45% of the whole
  • Book 2, "The Winning of Friends": 10 fables about four friends: a crow, a mouse, a turtle, and a deer (22%)
  • Book 3, "On Crows and Owls": 18 fables, mainly about war and peace (26%)
  • Book 4, "Loss of Gains": 13 fables with morals (7%)
  • Book 5, "Ill-Considered Action": 12 fables with cautionary morals, mainly featuring human characters (?%, but short)


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