In this reworked folk tale, clever Ganesha disguises himself as a shepherd boy to keep an evil king from becoming even more dangerously powerful.
Related in lumbering rhyme and blocky cartoon illustrations, the episode is not only abbreviated, but robbed of features that might have increased its appeal to young readers. Described as a ferocious, many-headed demon king in the Ramayana (for instance) but depicted here as a hunky but conventional, pale-skinned villain with a Snidely Whiplash mustache, Ravana sets out to secure a stone promised by Shiva that will give its bearer immortality and great power. Shiva reluctantly hands it over, with the proviso that once it touches the ground it will be forever immovable. Commenting “I know, he has his evil plans / to take over the world, / and capture all lands,” the elephant-headed Ganesha transforms himself into a lad and volunteers to hold the stone for a count of three while Ravana rests and prays (or in other versions, pees). As if. Down the stone drops, “…and Ravana’s dreams of fame and glory, / are gone forever. That’s the end of this story.” In traditional versions the end isn’t quite so abrupt, and the “stone” is actually a lingam or sacred phallus that is here only a glowing, egg-shaped crystal—though at least it does assume an elongated shape in the final scene. A small sheet of stickers and step-by-step instructions for drawing the portly blue pachyderm are appended.
A bland rendition, without much sense of the popular story’s usual course or cultural milieu. (Graphic folk tale. 5-8.)