Page:A history of Sanskrit literature (1900), Macdonell, Arthur Anthony.djvu/380

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CHAPTER XIV


FAIRY TALES AND FABLES


(Circa 400-1100 A.D.)


The didactic and sententious note which prevails in classical Sanskrit literature cannot fail to strike the student. It is, however, specially pronounced in the fairy tales and fables, where the abundant introduction of ethical reflections and proverbial philosophy is characteristic. The apologue with its moral is peculiarly subject to this method of treatment.

A distinguishing feature of the Sanskrit collections of fairy tales and fables, which are to a considerable extent found mixed together, is the insertion of a number of different stories within the framework of a single narrative. The characters of the main story in turn relate various tales to edify one another or to prove the correctness of their own special views. As within the limits of a minor story a second one can be similarly introduced and the process further repeated, the construction of the whole work comes to resemble that of a set of Chinese boxes. This style of narration was borrowed from India by the neighbouring Oriental peoples of Persia and Arabia, who employed it in composing independent works. The most notable instance is, of course, the Arabian Nights.

The Panchatantra, so called because it is divided