Forbidding in size, as befits the longest epic poem in any language, this is a fat book without any fat: you may consider acquiring it as merely a goodwill gesture toward Indian culture (the Sanskrit original is the Hindu scriptures and at least as significant as the Ramayana) but, as condensed tom feature the main story line, it makes engrossing reading somewhat reminiscent of the Norse epics. Primarily it involves the rivalry between the god-begotten sons of dead King Pandu, the Pandavas, and the sons of his younger brother, blind King Kuru, the Kuravas. (The author has adapted their names from the original to make them easier to recognize and remember.) The Kuravas' Jealousy of the prowess of Arjuna, the third Pandava, of the strength of Bhima, the second, and of the wisdom of Yudhistra, the eldest, makes them the intermittent aggressors, but the Pandavas are not blameless: in spite of his devotion to truth, Yudhistra tells a crucial falsehood on the field of battle, and his compulsion to gamble leads him to stake not only his kingdom but also his brothers and his queen. In a setting of constant violence, the ultimate message is reconciliation, not revenge, distinguishing it from most Western mythology and establishing its continuing religious relevance. In the foreword, Miss Seeger indicates the need for ""a readable and condensed version of (the Mahabharata) by someone Who is master of both Sanskrit and English"" (hers was done from an Older complete English translation); such a version exists (by Narasimhan, Columbia University Press, 1965) but it is less successful for younger readers. This even has a list of characters to keeP the large cast in order.