Five and Twenty Tales of the Genie
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Half mythical, heroic and sagacious, the emperor Vikramaditya is widely regarded as India's greatest monarch. This collection of stories tells of the ruler's fabled encounter with a vetala, a genie who inhabits the body of a corpse. The emperor begs the spirit for his help against a mighty necromancer and is told in return twenty-four tales, each of which presents a situation he might face as a king and culminates in a riddle that he must solve. With each answer, Vikramaditya displays his deep wisdom, proving himself to be the ideal monarch and winning, in the twenty-fifth tale, the guidance he needs from the vetala to destroy his powerful enemy. Written down in medieval times but inspired by an oral tradition stretching back centuries, these wise and witty tales rank amongst the great masterpieces of Sanskrit literature.