: Arthur W. Ryder
: Wildside Press
A book of nested stories, translated from Sanskrit by Arthur W. Ryder. The cover story recounts how the mighty King Triple-Victory was asked a boon by the monk Patience, who had stayed in his court for twelve years, each day bringing him a fruit with a gem concealed within.
The monk asked that the king go to the cemetery of his capital city on the last night of the waning moon, and meet him under a fig tree there; only then could he explain his request. On the appointed night, King Triple-Victory, disguising himself with a veil, met Patience, who was making preparations for a spell, under the fig tree.
Patience told the king of a sissoo tree some distance to the south. According to the monk, a corpse was hanging from it. He asked the king to bring the body to him. The noble and generous king agreed, and set off.
When Triple-Victory reached the tree, he found the corpse hanging from it by a rope, just as the monk had said. Upon cutting it down, he discovered a goblin, a possessing spirit, was inhabiting it. Unafraid, he picked the body up and began to carry it to Patience.
The goblin, to amuse the king on his journey back, began to tell him a story of nobles and lovers. At the end, the story posed a riddle: from the events in the tale, who was at fault? As the goblin told King Triple-Victory, "You seem like a very wise man, so resolve my doubts on
this point. If you know and do not tell me the truth, then your head will surely fly into a hundred pieces. And
if you give a good answer, then I will jump from your shoulder and go back to the sissoo tree."
The king answered, satisfying the goblin, who vanished. Triple-Victory returned to the sissoo tree and retrieved the corpse, which began to tell another story. Again, the goblin asked a decision on its events from the king, with the same conditions. Triple-Victory answered well again, and the goblin returned to the tree.
Twenty more stories were told by the goblin as the king patiently tried to bring the corpse to the monk. Each time, a riddle was asked, and answered. After the twenty-second answer, the goblin gave King Triple-Victory advice on how to proceed with Patience's request, and allowed himself to be taken to the monk.
The goblin's tales are primarily stories of love, adventure, and rivalry. His characters, much like the "external" persons of Triple-Victory and Patience, are given names descriptive of their natures or left anonymous. The overall feel of the stories is similar to that of European fairy-tales -- though in their original, non-Disneyfied forms. It's an excellent read, and I highly recommend it (you can even find it as a free etext at Project Gutenberg or Blackmask Online).
Blackmask Online (www.blackmask.com)