Thursday, June 20, 2013

Sita's Ramayana

The story here is a well known Indian legend written sometime after 300 BCE that has retold many times and ways. This essay touches on the many versions of this tale, with particular attention to what makes this version particularly unique. Here it receives the graphic novel treatment, and the basic tale is that Sita is kidnapped away from her husband Rama by a demon king who says he loves her. This event leads to a conflict between Rama and the kingdom of Lanka, and Rama enlists the aid of his brother and best friend, Lakshama, to combat the demons and free his wife.

Sita receives some assistance and comfort from Hanuman, a monkey ally of Rama.

There is much fallout from these events, including multiple deaths and doubt cast on Sita's virtue, which leads to her exile, even after she passes a literal trial by fire to prove herself:

As you can probably tell from the images, this tale draws much from Hindu iconography in its depictions and presentation. I feel that the artwork is colorful, rich, and beautiful, though it is a little clunky at times in sequential art terms. This book was a collaboration between writer Samhita Arni and scroll Potua  artist Moyna Chitrakar. More about the creators' intentions in retelling this legend in this book can be found in this article.

This beautifully rendered book has won a few awards, including being named one of Booklist's Notable Children Books for 2012, an ALA Notable Children's Book,  and also receiving a South Asia Book Award Honor. It should come as no surprise then that it has been well reviewed. Booklist's Francisca Goldsmith called it "a bit of a feminist retelling" but added, that it is "a fine addition for both youth and general collections, reading groups, and curriculum-planners interested in diversifying foreign literature, art-book, and ethnic studies reading." R. Krishna enjoyed the story fine but ultimately decided "what ultimately stands out is the book’s art form." Kirkus Reviews positively concluded that this book is "A valuable piece of historical literature brought to the forefront for thoughtful new readers."

Sita's Ramayana is published by Groundwood Books.

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