The king slashes his way through the forest, his sword cutting down the terrifying rings of leaves and branches. He climbs a tamarind tree and brings down a corpse hanging from a branch. Just as he turns to make his way out of the gloomy forest, an eerie voice cackles in his ear
Thus begins the saga of Vikramaditya, the brave and noble king, and the Vetal, his tormentor from the spirit world. As Vikramaditya trudges through the forest, the Vetal narrates stories to him ending each with a riddle that tests the king's famed sense of justice, his ideas of right and wrong.
Many centuries later, a twelve-year-old girl, disgusted at the way her summer holiday is turning out, runs away to a dusty field where she meets a strange old man sitting under a large tree. The man tells her stories about kings and queens and people of long ago, tales of generosity, courage and wisdom as well as of treachery, deceit and great stupidity. Incredibly, each of the stories deals with ideas and issues that are being debated at home by her eccentric grandmother. She also learns that these are the ancient Vikram and Vetal stories, and that King Vikramaditya had asked for a boon wanting these tales to be handed down generations. But who is the old man? And what connects the girl to a king from ancient times?
Deftly weaving together the age-old Vikram and Vetal stories with the mysterious happenings of a summer holidays, Poile Sengupta brings alive these classic tales in a new, energetic way. Funny, sad, serious and weird, this unique retelling proves how relevant these tales remain even today.
The stories of Vikramaditya, the brave and noble king, and the Vetal, his tormentor from the spirit world, have captivated children for ages. As Vikramaditya trudges through the forest, the Vetal narrates stories to him, ending each with a riddle that tests the king' s famed sense of justice, his ideas of right and wrong.
Deftly weaving together the age-old Vikram and Vetal stories with the mysterious happenings of a summer holiday, Poile Sengupta brings alive these classic tales in a new, energetic way. Funny, sad, serious and weird, this unique retelling proves how relevant these tales remain even today.
Poile Sengupta has written several books for children. Her published works include The Exquisite Balance, The Way to My Friend's House, Story of the Road, How the Path Grew (CBT), Waterflowers (Scholastic), Role Call and Role Call Again (Rupa). Her stories have appeared in various anthologies like The Puffin Treasury of Modern Indian Stories, Sorry, Best Friend, One World (Tulika), and The Best of Target. Her columan, 'A Letter to You', ran in Children's World for nearly three decades.
Poile is also a playwright. She has written several plays for adults, of which Mangalam has been published by Seagull Books, Calcutta. She has also written one full-length musical and a number of short plays for children.
She has been a teacher at school and college and is a well-known theatre person in Bangalore, which is her home. Poile has recently moved to Delhi to be with her husband who is a senior civil servant.
The stories of King Vikramaditya and the Vetal are part of the classic tradition of Indian storytelling where serious social issues emerge from what are also engaging tales for children. There are many retold versions of the Vikram- Vetal tales in our Indian languages but about twenty-five stories seem to form the original core. They range from the solemn to the comic and even the absurd, and most of them provoke serious questions about justice, governance, human behaviour and relationships, and focus strongly on the importance of plain common sense. This book retells thirteen of these stories.
The main narrator of this book is a girl whose otherwise boring summer holiday is suddenly transformed when she meets a strange storyteller. The girl's life entwines mysteriously with that of King Vikramaditya's, and time and space lose their demarcations. By using a spunky and outspoken schoolgirl as the protagonist, the book pulls the age- oldVikram-Vetal tales forward into our own time.The girl's reflections help the reader discover the deep layer of meaning that each story offers even now.
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