Vyasa

“What is found in the poem [The Mahabharata] I have recited —
Concerning dharma [righteousness], riches and enjoyment,
As well as the path to final liberation —
May be found elsewhere. But anything
It does not contain will be found nowhere.”

The Mahabharata, 18.5.38, English adaptation by Carole Satyamurti

What can one really say to that? The Mahabharata, the world’s longest epic poem, composed in Sanskrit by Vyasa, is ten times the combined length of the Iliad and Odyssey and three times the length of the Bible. It is more than just a fixed text. It has been told and retold, in a million versions, oral, written, and on screen; as people say in India, one never really hears it for the first time. (See Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata by Devdutt Pattanaik).

The Mahabharata is the living link to my ancestors and their culture, the compendium of their wisdom, a sort of Wikipedia of ancient times, a work that contains many works within it: treatises on politics, philosophy, warfare, ancient history, and the Bhagavad Gita, the divine song which came directly from on high, culminating in the most beautiful of epiphanies (Chapter 11 of the Bhagavad Gita). How do we make peace with the world and the things we have to face in it? Is it by realizing we’re just actors in a drama, instruments in a divine play? As the Gita puts it, beautifully:

“I am almighty time, the world-destroying,
And to destroy worlds, I have arisen!
Those warriors arrayed in lines opposing
Your men, even without you, will have perished.”

The Bhagavad Gita, 11.32 (located in book 6 of The Mahabharata), Translation by Gavin Flood and Charles Martin

All that’s great. That gives The Mahabharata enormous historical, cultural, and religious value. But The Mahabharata is more than just that. Though set in the most distant of times and places for an individual living in 21st century America, it is relevant today. Like the works of Shakespeare, the stories it tells and the emotions and dilemmas experienced by its characters are timeless and speak to the core of what it means to be human, anywhere, anytime. When do we stop turning the other cheek and stand up for ourselves? What are the limits of loyalty to our friends, especially if they’re veering off the path of good? Is it ok to break the rules for the greater good? How do we keep going when the times get rough? These questions are addressed within this great and ancient book. Some questions stay with us humans forever. I am fortunate to have had this book as a companion throughout my life.

-Akhi

Unearthing the History of Westeros

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Akhi Pillalamarri
Web Content Contributor
Twitter | Website

 

The study of archaeology in constructed worlds has been an interest of mine for some years now, reflecting my real-life interest in piecing together history from artifacts, excavations, written records, and organic fragments. Several years ago, I developed an interest in the archaeology of World of Warcraft and the Elder Scrolls world (Tamriel), prompting further interest in exploring the archaeology of fantasy worlds.

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Non-Fiction: The Key to Good Fantasy?

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Akhi Pillalamarri
Head Web Content Contributor
Twitter | Website

 

I believe the best fictional work, especially in a genre like fantasy, where world-building is essential, requires thorough non-fictional, especially historical knowledge. In fact, non-fictional knowledge is, in my view, the key to good world-building, more so than familiarity with other, related works of fiction and literary styles. This is why I advocated a thorough history-based, “lore” approach to fantasy, both in terms of constructing the world, and in garnering knowledge from the lore of the real world.

Why is this, you might ask?

Despite the name ‘fantasy,’ what I consider good fantasy is pretty realistic. I believe fantasy ought to invoke the scientific method, where the majority of malleable variables are held constant so that the author may focus on upon what I see as the genre’s true purpose: exploring new and interesting worlds, or telling a compelling story with unique, dynamic characters. Variables such as human nature and the reactions of countries or governments to a variety of events ought to remain constant, so as not to distract from that purpose.

For me, the appeal of fantasy is considering questions of world-building or the human experience when stripped of their usual real-life context, which can obscure these elements at times. When writing historical fiction or fiction set in the real world, the story must be conditioned by real events and culture in order to be plausible. Fantasy, however, gives you the freedom to avoid this strict historical conditioning.

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Learning from Fantasy: Part 1 (History)

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Dorothy McQuaid
Showrunner for Pycera/Social Media for BWP
Twitter | Blog | Email

 

Hi, readers!  I’m very excited to begin a new series of posts about things that can be learned from reading Fantasy and other fiction genres. To me, reading is more than just idle, passive entertainment, and I’ve found that I’ve learned a lot from books some dismiss as fluffy or shallow. These topics include history, relationship advice, and ethics, so I’ll cover the three of those in three different blog posts (though I touched on relationship advice in my post about birth control in Tamora Pierce’s canon.)

Part 1 Or; Time-Travel Romance is So Much More Interesting Than History Class

This post is going to discuss history through the lens of fiction, more specifically the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. Now, I have a lot of respect for historians and the study of history. A few fellow members of BWP have studied history and I recognize how important it is, but I’ve always been more of a ‘big-picture’ person when it comes to history: I don’t tend to have a memory for names or dates, and I didn’t take many history classes besides the required ones. The information that tends to stick in my mind comes from personal experiences — i.e. visiting a historical site, speaking to a survivor — or from stories. I went through a phase in middle school where I read a bunch of  YA novels about children during the Holocaust — maybe not a normal hobby for a 10-year-old, but I was able to gain a greater understanding of a very important period of history. For me, knowing the story of someone who went through the experience helps me remember, and care, much more than taking notes during a lecture.

As I said, I’m simply not one for names and dates, and have never been great at memorizing historical events.

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A Brief History of Modern Fantasy

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Akhi Pillalamarri
Head Web Content Contributor
Twitter | Website

 

A COMPANION TO TBT 07

Our most recent podcast on the “Evolution of Fantasy” featured a spirited debate about our favorite genre, from how we each defined “fantasy” to what we consider its developmental timeline. One of our biggest points of disagreement was about when what is considered “modern” fantasy started. Despite this, we at least had some general agreement that the publication of The Lord of the Rings‘ first volume, The Fellowship of the Ring, in 1954 marked a significant turning point for the marketing and publishing of the fantasy genre.

To bounce off of this initial discussion, I wanted to write a brief history of what happened after 1950s, with some admitted speculation on my part.

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TBT 07: Evolution of Fantasy

How do you define fantasy literature? At what point was there a shift from mythology and fairy tales to what we consider to be fantasy today? Some of our more well-read Whisperers discuss these questions and more in this episode of The Book Table.

For listeners of The Book Table, Audible is offering a free audiobook and a 30-day free trial! Sign up at http://audibletrial.com/TheBookTable.

In this episode you heard from:
Akhi | akhipill
Dorothy | bwp_dorothy
Madeleine | madnbooks | youtube.com/madnbooks
Rebecca | rumy91989

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