The Long Path to Wisdom: Tales from Burma

In the preface to his enchanting compilation of Burmese fairytales, legends and myths, Jan-Philipp Sendker explains that he encountered many of these narratives through various trips to Myanmar while researching his novels The Art of Hearing Heartbeats and A Well-Tempered Heart. The stories "exposed the rich mythologies of the various ethnicities of Burma, the spirituality of its people, and the impact of centuries of Buddhist thought."

The Long Path to Wisdom is filled with magic and royalty, nature and reincarnation. The tales tend to be short but dense with meaning and moral. Lessons are learned, wrongs are righted and good triumphs. There's plenty to chew on, chuckle at and savor. They also reflect universal themes, bearing similarities to stories from other cultures. "The White Crow and Love" may remind some readers of Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid. Some tales, like "The Story of Father and His Son," provide mythological explanations for nature. A couple's only son has extraordinary strength, and when he dies, his father advises him to give that strength to the wind and the water. Readers can learn lessons from clever animals such as crocodiles, tigers and monkeys in much the same way as Aesop's fables.

Young and old alike will enjoy traveling through the forests, farms, kingdoms and villages of Burma. The rich landscape is as captivating as the mystical nats (or spirits) that inhabit the pages of this book. Simple writing with complex meaning and rich culture, The Long Path to Wisdom is a great addition to any fairytale collection. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

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