Arun Mani J

Twenty Two Goblins

11 January 2024
Twenty Two Goblins by Arthur W. Ryder

When I was young, a friend of mine told me a story of three skilled men and asked me who is the best among them. I forgot what answer I gave. But I started liking such stories where the conclusion is left to the reader.

Vikram-Vetala is a story about a king who is tasked by a sorcerer to bring a vampire to him. The vampire tells the king a few stories. At the end of each story, the vampire asks the king a question. If the king knows the answer but doesn’t reply, his head will burst into pieces. If he answers, the vampire will escape back to its origin. So for every story, the vampire flies back and the king goes back to fetch it. This continues for about twenty two stories (or twenty five as per Wikipedia).

After reading Mahabharata and a few other stories of Indian mythology, I thought of reading Vikram-Vetala tales too. I used Wikipedia as a reference to suggest me books. First I tried Richard Burton’s retelling but it was verbose and its language not easy for me.

Then I tried Twenty Two Goblins. The book suited me well because it was short and the language felt like literal translation. Like, the author even translated the names of people and cities to English.

Most of the stories had a similar plot. A love affair and almost all of them a love at the first site. The answers by king were also just and reflective, though a few controversial as per modern trends. Anyway, the stories flow through the classical Indian rules of justice, hierarchy and authority, which is good enough to keep you day dreaming.

Both of these books are in public domain, so you can read them right away 😇.

  1. Twenty-Two Goblins in Project Gutenberg
  2. Vikram and the Vampire in Project Gutenberg