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New Adaptations of Old Tales

Vijaya Ghosh

By Shivam
Children's Book Trust, New Delhi, 1979, pp. 16 & 20, Rs. 1.75 & 2.25 respectively

VOLUME IV NUMBER 2 September/October 1979

Children's books in India have always been relegated to the last place in anyone's priorities whether it be the publisher’s or the parent's! CBT's pione­ering effort in providing some sort of reading material for children aside from the dull text-books that children are burdened with deserves to be highly com­mended. India Book House also with their Amar Chitra Katha and Chaturang Katha series have popularized the tradi­tional stories and legends of our country. Unfortunately, most of our publishers believe in serving our children a rehashed fare of mythology, folk tale and legend. The number of original creative works is almost negligible. Legends, mythology and folk stories seem to do extremely well. And while children would be tardy in reading a mythological story, they take to such tales in comic strips like a duck takes to water. While there is no denying the fact that IBH has done yeoman service in familiarizing our children with our culture and traditions which they would otherwise have shied away from, one wonders why they have not exploited the situation by producing original comic strips. Here, one is not holding a plea for comic books but for original work of which there seems to be an unfathomable gap in children's publishing. It is only in Bengali publishing that a consistent creativity is maintained. CBT churns out for children, if not in such prolific quantities as IBH, certainly with unfailing regularity adapted versions of mythological stories and legends. The books under review, Sixteen Forever and the Lady of the Lotus, both by Shivam are once again adapted stories. Sixteen Forever is the story of Marka­ndaya (Mrityunjaya to some). Marka­ndeya the son of Mirkandu and Marudvati was born after several years of marriage as a boon from Lord Shiva. Markandeya was asked to choose by Lord Shiva between a son who would live a full uneventful life and a son who would live only 16 years but would confound the world with his wisdom. Mirkandu chooses the latter. The child Markandeya fulfils every dream of the fond parents. He is as clever and wise as he is good and obedient and loving. As his sixteenth birthday approaches, Mirkandu knowing what awaits his son grows more and more dejected. Markandeya, learning the cause of this despair decides to pray to Lord Shiva who, pleased with his devotion grants that he remains sixteen forever. ...

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