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KALILA AND DIMNA, Vol. 2: - Fables of Conflict and Intrigue from the Panchatantra, Jatakas, Bidpai, Kalila and Dimnah and Lights of Canopus [Kindle Edition]

Ramsay Wood , Kitty Carruthers , G M Whitworth , Michael Wood , Bidpai , Mimosa
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

•Kalila and Dimna• or •The Panchatantra• (also known in Europe since 1483 as •The Fables of Bidpai•) is a multi-layered, inter-connected and variable arrangement of animal stories, with one story leading into another, sometimes three or four deep. These arrangements have contributed to world literature for over 2000 years, migrating across ancient cultures in a multitude of written and oral formats. All our beast fables from Aesop and the Buddhist •Jataka Tales• through La Fontaine to Uncle Remus owe this strange, shape-shifting 'book' a huge debt.

In its original Arabic format, •Kalila and Dimna• (•The Panchatantra• being its Sanskrit precursor), ostensibly constitutes a handbook for rulers, a so-called 'Mirror for Princes' illustrating indirectly, through a cascade of teaching stories and verse, how to (and how not to!) run the kingdom of your life. In their slyly profound grasp of human nature at its best (and worst!) these animal fables, usually avoiding any moralistic human criticism, serve up digestible sage counsel for us all.

Based on his collation of scholarly translations from key Sanskrit, Syriac, Arabic and Persian texts, as well as the 1570 English rendition by Sir Thomas North, this is the first uncompromisingly modern re-telling in either the East or West for over 400 years. In Ramsay Wood's version the profound meanings behind these ancient fables shine forth as he captures a great world classic, making it fresh, relevant, fascinating and hugely readable.

His second volume of fables from •Kalila and Dimna•, picks up where the first, Fables of Friendship and Betrayal, left off - covering deceit, political skullduggery, murder, enemies, deadly monsters, kings, bees, princesses, monkeys, lions, crocodiles and how we all live and die together in peace or conflict. This is a book full of outrageously behaved animals and humans doing the most delightfully awful (yet sometimes gentle) things to each other. These are joyous, sad, amusing and sometimes brutal stories; their function being to educate both king and commoner alike in the ways of the world, the harsh realities that can often lurk beneath the surface of our cozy, everyday subjectivity.

Editorial Reviews


‘These stories speak to and belong to the whole of humanity... What Ramsay has done over the last thirty years is to have made the version for our time.' From the Introduction by Michael Wood, author of The Story of India.

Kalila wa Dimna is, like the Arabian Nights, an engine room of stories - and stories within stories. It is also one of the undoubted masterpieces of world literature. Its tales mingle entertainment and wisdom. The limpidity of Ramsay Wood's prose echoes that of the Indian original.’ Robert Irwin, author of The Arabian Nights: a Companion.

‘This cycle of ancient Indian and Persian animal fables, largely unknown, unavailable, and inaccessible until now, has been retold by Ramsay Wood in a lively modern prose that is earthly and wry, with flashes of insight that verge on wisdom. It is a must-read for anyone interested in the masterpieces of world literature - or just in a totally engrossing and entertaining reading experience, one enhanced by lovely line-drawings in the margins and pithy quotes from other sources. This book is an amazing gift to all of us who love good stories and great storytelling!' Lisa Alther, author of Kinflicks.

‘An intricately woven web of some of the world's oldest and greatest stories, sweetly and humourously retold, and begging to be read aloud to a new generation of listeners.’ William Dalrymple, author of City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi.

About the Author

Ramsay Wood, whose first story was published in LIFE magazine in 1967, once traveled as a photojournalist to East Africa, Vietnam and Pakistan. Now works part-time in London teaching dyslexic children keyboard skills and literacy. He was born into a diplomat's family and has lived in Scotland, the Philippines, France and the US. He attended Harvard, and in 1981 was Secretary of the College of Storytellers and Chairman of the British charity Afghan Relief.

Product Details

  • File Size: 890 KB
  • Print Length: 245 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0956708102
  • Publisher: Zirac Press; 2 edition (March 10, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007J6UJDG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #480,467 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The First Modern Retelling in over 400 years July 30, 2012
Ramsay Wood has spent 30 years reviving Kalila and Dimna, an all but forgotten treasure of world literature. His second installment is as edgy, playful, and thought-provoking as the first. This Eastern classic is the most translated book in the world after the Bible. And yet these marvelous tales have been too often dismissed as trivial and childish. Wood has produced the first modern retelling in over 400 years.

Quirky, violent, deceitful, all too human animals populate this second collection of familiar and unfamiliar fables. Ostensibly intended to educate princes and commoners in ways of world, it uncovers the harsh realities that lurk beneath our comfortable everyday subjectivity. It even includes stories about how to learn from the tales themselves.

Its tales within tales structure reflects the constant flow of events and thoughts in our lives. It's easy to get lost and a shock to return to the frame tale, suddenly realizing what we've forgotten. It's like imagining we're awake when we've really been dreaming. Efforts to keep track of where we are and to hold these multilayered tales in our mental grip provide unparalleled opportunities to exercise our brains and allow meanings to reveal themselves in their own good time.

Wood concludes the book with two masterful essays. The first outlines the history of the tale and how this treasure trove of sophisticated teaching-stories posing as humble fables has so easily slipped over borders and been embraced by so many cultures.

The final essay was prompted by a challenge from a NASA Director to prove that story is a more effective medium for science outreach than technical writing. It details our limited conceptions of story together with an extended concept of its nature and value.

Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful Storytelling! January 15, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I read Ramsay Woods first volume of "Kalila and Dimna" back in 1980 and loved it for its humor and contemporary language, as well as its fidelity to the spirit of the original. When I heard that Wood had completed a second volume I ordered it without hesitation. This volume may be even better than the first: the progression of tales within tales and the comments of the many character/narrators combine to deliver delightful surprises at every turn. This is a rich stew of well-seasoned stories from India, Persia and Arabia which has been simmering for centuries and will be savored by anyone who appreciates folktales of any culture. These tales have been part of Buddhist, Hindu and Sufi collections and carry lessons at many levels. Most refreshing is Ramsay Wood's ability to convey the improvisational vitality of live storytelling on the printed page. This is a book you'll want to give to friends and loved ones!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This second volume of Ramsay Wood's Kalila & Dimna saga is a nourishing collection of stories that will leave you thoroughly `well-fed' from both an entertainment and learning perspective. All the elements are here beyond the conventional trademarks of standard fables. Things do not necessarily end `Happily Ever After', but the characters learn much along the way, as does the reader, too.

Ramsay Wood's contemporary refreshing writing is like a modern `Shrek' or `How to Train Your Dragon' movie style. Thus, Wood's flow of words translates with ease the ideas within the original ancient Kalila & Dimna Sanskrit, Arabic, Syriac and Persian texts into digestible twenty-first- century tales. For any parent wishing to prepare their child for the happy as well as the harsh realities of this world using a disguised teaching tool, then both collections of Kalila and Dimna are a must. My favourite story in the second collection is `The Vegetarian Jackal' in which a jackal is framed for eating a large slab of zebra meat, when, in fact, he is a vegetarian.

Excellent illustrations by Jill Whitworth provide an on-going overall impression of the entire odyssey, as well as little nibbles of each tale. Prepare to be taken on a journey of illumination and to change one's expectations of storytelling. Film makers such as Spielberg and Jim Henson's company should look no further for material that is beyond the traditional `Once Upon A Time'. Kalila & Dimna provides one with `Once Upon A Time, Space and Eternity...'
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fables for a better world October 16, 2014
Full of fun and drama, reflections, uncommon words like gadabouts, postprandial, lollygagging…, expressions and interesting information. During this second and much delightful reading I took it in a slow tempo and sucked on the candies as we say in Sweden. And I recommend that because there are so many niceties you can miss otherwise. These fables go way, way back in time, when they were oral stories told from generation to generation. Then they were written down by Buddhist monks, translated to many different languages, adapted to different cultures, published under different titles and eventually became one of the first printed books in Europe, there translated into 16 languages and became as spread and read as the Bible. The fantastic history about how these fables have followed us during the centuries one can read about in the Afterword. Now they are published again, in new clothing and Ramsay Wood tells the stories for us today with a tone that is his own, quaint and humoristic and modern but not too modern. This is the second of three planned books.
Entertainment was not the main intention with the fables but to educate and pass on knowledge and wisdom to the next generation and in the frame story (just like in A Thousand and One Nights) of Kalila and Dimna there is a cruel and ignorant king who is told these stories so that he can become a better and wiser regent. Read and ponder about Spackleface, Snaggletooth and his awful wife Madam Buttercup, about the Jackal, vegetarian and closest man to the King and the vile schemes against him. Or why not read and tell just like in the old days?
And do not miss the last part. In the appendix there is lot of interesting reading and many references to new science about the educational power of stories
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More About the Author

*A- See

*B- Details about my work are available on: and my offical facebook page is

*C- The 2009 London lecture I gave at the School of Oriental and African Studies for the The Institute for Cultural Research (ICR) Seminar, THE POWER OF STORIES is available (in three 15 minute parts) under "Videos" to the right. The fourth, unrelated video, illustrates the annual tradition of the Dali Lama reading and telling a Jataka Tale in public.

This 2009 ICR lecture began as an exploration of four questions:
"What makes the ancient Sanskrit fables of the *Panchatantra* so durable and well traveled? What role did live storytelling have in their origin and steady migration? What is the function of such stories, if any, beyond entertainment? Why are they so beautiful and hauntingly compelling?"

*D- Thanks to their support, I continued researching this theme for ICR by writing their Monograph Series No 59: *Extraordinary Voyages of The Panchatantra* published 2011 by The Institute for Cultural Research (ICR):-

*E- However the only full and final version of this essay appears in the Afterword of my *Kalila and Dimna, Vol. 2: Fables of Conflict and Intrigue from the Panchatantra, Jatakas, Bidpai, Kalila and Dimnah and Lights of Canopus* available in paperback and Kindle editions.


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