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Encyclopedia > Ramsay Wood
Ramsay Wood

Ramsay Wood is a writer best known for his modernized compilation of the ancient animal fables derived from The Panchatantra. His Kalila and Dimna-- Selected Fables of Bidpai was published by Knopf in 1980[1]. Wood believes that these fables are the earliest secular example of what Lawrence Lessig calls remix culture. The Panchatantra [1][2][3] (also spelled Pañcatantra, Sanskrit पञ्चतन्त्र Five Chapters) or Kelileh va Dimneh or Anvar-i-Suhayli [4][5] or The Lights of Canopus (in Persian)[6] or Kalilag and Damnag (in Syriac)[7] or Kalila and Dimna (also Kalilah and Dimnah, Arabic كليلة Ùˆ دمنة Kalila wa Dimna)[8... Bidpai or Pilpai is the presumed author of a collection of Hindu fables of ancient date, in extensive circulation over the East, and widely translated. ... Alfred A. Knopf ( September 12, 1892 – August 11, 1984) was a leading American publisher of the 20th century. ... Not to be confused with Lawrence Lessing. ... Remix culture is a term employed by Lawrence Lessig to describe a society which allows and encourages derivative works. ...


Fable collections as early examples of remix culture

Wood claims[2] that in hundreds of literary collections, different arrangements of The Panchatantra fables are known by different titles in different languages at different times in different places. Yet each unique cultural remix always links back to an oral, even pre-literate, storytelling society in ancient India. No original text survivies. We can only enjoy and study the many derivative works. In copyright law, a derivative work is an artistic creation that includes aspects of work previously created and copyright protected. ...

Wood’s Kalila and Dimna has an Introduction by the novelist Doris Lessing supporting this idea. She cites some literary variants of The Panchatantra. This Introduction was reprinted in Lessing's 2005 collection of essays, Time Bites: Views and Reviews[3]. Doris Lessing, CH, OBE (born October 22, 1919), is a British writer, born Doris May Taylor in Kermanshah, Persia (Iran). ...

English versions

The fables first appeared in English as The Morall Philosophie of Doni in 1570[4], translated from the Italian by Sir Thomas North, who also translated Plutarch’s Lives[5]. Wood’s book was the first English version of these reconstituted fables since Joseph Jacobs’s reprint of Sir Thomas North’s in 1888. Sir Thomas North (1535? - 1601?), English translator of Plutarch, second son of the 1st Baron North, was born about 1535. ... Joseph Jacobs (1854, Australia - 1916) was a British literary historian. ...

Wood’s Kalila and Dimna is based on Sir Thomas North's version and seven other derivative works translated from Sanskrit, Arabic, Syriac and Persian. In the book’s ‘Afterword’ Wood suggests that these literary collections of ancient fables[6], although highly revered classics in many languages, are among the world’s most durable examples of cross-cultural migration, adaptive morphology and secular survival — as they have been widely and continuously shared and modified for over two thousand years from a legendary, long-lost, original manuscript. Sanskrit ( , for short ) is a classical language of India, a liturgical language of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism, and one of the 23 official languages of India. ... Arabic can mean: From or related to Arabia From or related to the Arabs The Arabic language; see also Arabic grammar The Arabic alphabet, used for expressing the languages of Arabic, Persian, Malay ( Jawi), Kurdish, Panjabi, Pashto, Sindhi and Urdu, among others. ... Syriac is an Eastern Aramaic language that was once spoken across much of the Fertile Crescent. ... Look up Persian in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...

Edinburgh Festival 1984

In 1983, Wood’s book was turned into a play entitled A Word in the Stargazer’s Eye by Stuart Cox of Theatr Taliesin Wales. The show premiered at the 1984 Edinburgh Festival, starring the actor Nigel Watson. The Scotsman reviewed it thus: There is no one Edinburgh Festival but those using the term are usually referring to the collection of various festivals in August and early September of each year in Edinburgh, Scotland. ... The Scotsmans offices in Edinburgh The Scotsman is a Scottish national newspaper, published in Edinburgh. ...

A stunning performance, bridging the gap of understanding between East and West. We are blessed awhile with the wonderment of children as we listen to these eternal tales of the human psyche. A show for every nationality under the sun.

Theatr Taliesin Wales subsequently toured the production in many countries for several years, from Iceland to India.

Wood’s second volume, Kalila and Dimna – Conflict and Intrigue, will complete his re-compilation project when it is published by London Publisher Saqi Books[7] in November 2008. Saqi Books is re-issuing Wood’s first volume, retitled as Kalila and Dimna – Friendship and Betrayal.

French edition 2006

Cover: Albin Michel edition, 2006

In 2006 Éditions Albin Michel published a French translation of his 1980 first volume. A review by Roger-Pol Droit in Le Monde on Sept 15th 2006 said: Éditions Albin Michel is a French publisher. ... For the song by the Thievery Corporation, see Le Monde (song). ...

Crossing linguistic and cultural frontiers, these fables also transcend conventional time-frames. They abound with temporal paradoxes. Ancient letters, locked in a series of smaller and smaller treasure chests by King Houschenk in the past, are addressed to kings of the future. They contain words of advice whose meaning only becomes gradually clear, sometimes after a very big delay.

FRENCH TEXT: "Sans frontière linguistique ni culturelle, ces fables ignorent aussi celles du temps. Au sein du recueil, les paradoxes temporels abondent. Des lettres très antiques, enfermées dans une série de coffres par le roi Houschenk autrefois, s'adressent aux souverains de l'avenir. Elles renferment des conseils dont le sens ne s'éclaire qu'à mesure, parfois avec un très grand retard."

Other Activities

Wood is also a freelance photographer and journalist who has covered stories in Europe, Africa and the Far East since 1967. His first major publication, when he was 25, was an interview and photographs with the poet Robert Graves in LIFE Magazine. [8] He was chairman of the original registered British charity called Afghan Relief, from 1984 until its dissolution in 2000. He was a co-founder and acting Secretary of the defunct College of Storytellers from 1980 until 1991.[9] In 2005 he qualified as an assistant literacy teacher and now works part-time in London at Emerson House [10] helping children with dyslexia to learn keyboard skills. Robert von Ranke Graves (24 July 1895 – 7 December 1985) was an English poet, scholar, and novelist. ... A cover of Life Magazine from 1911 Life has been the name of two notable magazines published in the United States. ...


  1. ^ See page 100, The Oxford Companion to English Literature, fifth edition, 1985 ISBN 0-19-866130-4
  2. ^ See page 262 of Kalila and Dimna, Selected fables of Bidpai, retold by Ramsay Wood, Knopf, New York, 1980
  3. ^ Publisher's site: http://www.harperperennial.co.uk/books.aspx?id=30228
  4. ^ Full digital text: http://www.archive.org/details/earliestenglishv00doniuoft
  5. ^ This is the book by Sir Thomas North that made his more celebrated impact upon English literature: http://www.archive.org/details/shakespearesplut01plutuoft
  6. ^ See page 262 of Kalila and Dimna, Selected fables of Bidpai, retold by Ramsay Wood, Knopf, New York, 1980
  7. ^ Link to Saqi Books website: http://www.saqibooks.com
  8. ^ LIFE Atlantic, March 4th 1968, pages 24 - 27
  9. ^ 25th Anniversary Report, Harvard and Radcliffe Class of 1965, Cambridge, USA 1990, pages 969 - 971
  10. ^ http://www.emersonhouse.co.uk/

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