This is a book I really want to get. Chronicle Books has produced what looks like a wonderful illustrated version of a great Hindu epic, Ramayana: Divine Loophole, this one created and illustrated by Pixar animator and storyboard artist Sanjay Patel.
You know the two major Greek mythological epics, The Iliad and The Odyssey? They could take lessons in greatness and epic sweep from The Ramayana and the other, even more massive Hindu epic, The Mahabharata.
The Ramayana tells the tale of the Indian prince, Rama, who is exiled to the forest for 14 years with his wife, Sita, and his brother, Lakshmana. Rama is one of the ten incarnations of the god Vishnu. Each time this god incarnates, he comes to earth for the purpose of saving it from some huge threat. In this case, it’s the threat of a ten-headed demon-being named Ravana, who endangers the earth through his flouting of dharma (i.e. the divinely ordained right way of doing things).
As the three exiles wander the forest, they encounter divine sages, many demon creatures, an army of monkeys, and Hanuman, the monkey god who serves Rama and can carry a mountain on his back. Eventually Ravana kidnaps Sita, forcing Rama to bring the monkey army to do final battle. After he gains the victory, and Sita proves her fidelity to Rama, the exiles return home and Rama at last gains his throne.
If you enjoyed the look and feel of the Samurai Jack animation, or the wonderful Sita Sings the Blues video by Nina Paley (which tells the Ramayana story in animated form), you may be as excited about Patel’s book as I am. I love the very stylized look of these illustrations, and of course I love the story itself.
I’ve lost count of how many different versions of the Hindu epic, The Ramayana, that I have. As a graduate student, I not only TA’d an undergrad class studying this epic, but I was simultaneously taking my own grad-level class studying the same thing. I spent my whole final semester at university completely immersed in this story, and have kind of collected versions of it ever since. But I am just keening to get Patel’s book and give it pride of place.