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Italian Jatakas

2001 Monete d'Oro: Una Storia di Jataka. Adapted by Dharma Publishing staff. Illustrata da Emily Jan. Paperbound. Berkeley, CA: Serie di Racconti di Jataka: Dharma Publishing. $6.36 from the publisher, Dec., '04. 

From the American original Pieces of Gold in the same year of 2001. As I mention there, here is yet another style for Dharma's Jataka Tales Series. The emphasis here lies on elements like dimensionality, fluidity, and contour. Two rich brothers are traveling. The younger substitutes a bag of gravel for his brother's sack of gold coins. The younger brother thinks then that he is throwing the bag of gravel overboard when he appears to stumble and drop it. It is really the bag of coins that goes overboard; the river goddess watches over it and has a big fish swallow it. When the younger brother at home discovers his mistake, he is disconsolate. The big fish is caught and up for sale; it goes to the older brother. His wife cuts it open and finds the sack, and he recognizes it as his. The river goddess hovers in his home and lets him know that this is a reward for the generosity he showed in feeding the fish of the Ganges. Against her advice, the older brother gives his younger brother half of the money; the latter, "filled with shame for his selfish and dishonest action," resolves to change his ways and to practice generosity from that time on. See also the French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish versions.

2002 Il Pappagallo e l'Albero di Fico. Tradotta dall'inglese da Osvaldo e Lucia Gaiotto e Carla Piccinini. Illustrazioni di Michael Harman. Paperbound. Berkeley: Le storie di Jataka: Dharma Publishing. $6.36 from the publisher, Dec., '04. Dh15I.

Here is the later Italian paperbound version of the hardbound English The Parrot and the Fig Tree from 1990. As I comment there, where other volumes used gold lines to outline the figures, Harman uses black. A parrot who dwells happily in a fruitful fig tree is tested for his loyalty to the tree by Shakra, king of the gods, who causes the tree to dry up. The parrot proves himself, and the tree is restored at his request. The art is simple and rich. Again, the Jataka tales are outspokenly altruistic. There is a double-page at the end for children to color. See also the versions in French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish.

2002 Il Gioiello dell' Amicizia: Una storia di Jataka. Tradotta dall'inglese da Osvaldo e Lucia Gaiotto e Carla Piccinini. Illustrata da Magdalena Duran. Paperbound. Berkeley: Le storie di Jataka: Dharma Publishing. $6.36 from the publisher, Dec., '04. Dh27I.

As in Duran's other illustrated work in this series, The King Who Understood Animals: A Jataka Tale, the art is characterized by the almond-shaped eyes of human beings. This is the Italian translation of The Jewel of Friendship.  Two sons of a Benares professor are suddenly left orphans. They travel to the Ganges and build two huts, the older son's at a greater distance from the riverbank, the younger's right on the bank. A naja, king of serpents, happens to have a palace deep in the river at this point. One day he passes near the younger son's hut and conceives the idea of becoming his friend. He transforms himself into a young man of his age. He asks the younger son "Why do you choose to live so isolated?" They converse for some time. In the course of days, they become good friends. Hoping that familiarity will have taken away any fear, the naja decides at last to reveal himself in his true form. The boy tries to hide his fear, but it still keeps him from either sleeping or eating. He goes to his older brother and tells him everything. The older brother learns that his brother wants to be rid of the frightening friend, and he advises him to ask for the jewel on his forehead and to keep asking for three days. The jewel after all is the source of his beauty, power, and magic. When the request is repeated for three days, the naja says to himself that the boy is interested not in him but in his jewel, and so he returns to his palace. He no longer visits the boy. The boy becomes lonely and emaciated, and his brother now counsels him to learn to love the naja for himself and not for his jewel. Only then will he part with the jewel. The boy calls the naja and sees pure love in his eyes. The naja drops the jewel at the boy's feet. At the end of the day, the boy gives it back to him. Their love has its own magical power. See also the French, Portuguese, and Spanish versions.

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