Thank you so much Sarwat! Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress was published on 1st March, and is available from Waterstones, Amazon and of course independent bookshops! If you would like to win a signed copy, please leave a comment letting me know who your favourite villain is and leave an email address where you can be contacted. A winner will be chosen on 19th March.
Monday, 5 March 2012
Guest Post: Ravana, the Ultimate Bad Guy by Sarwat Chadda
I am delighted that Sarwat Chadda, author of the fabulous Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress, has agreed to write a guest post about the ultimate bad guy, Ravana. I wrote about it here.
Ravana is the biggest villain of Indian mythology. He’s Satan, he’s Loki, he’s Hades all rolled into one. I love him.
Indian mythology is quite unlike what’s available in the West. The boundaries between good and evil, morality, are bound by the notions of dharma, of right living. A warrior’s dharma is to kill his enemies so can achieved Heaven through war, through committing what we would view as evil deeds. One of the greatest epics of India, the Mahabharata, has a central moment when the hero Arjuna faces his enemy, made up of his own kin. Before him are cousins and friends and grand-parents that he must slay and he hesitates. It is only when his charioteer, the god Krishna, explains the nature of dharma does he resolve to fight.
So it is with Ravana. It is his destiny to fight, to terrorise and to make war. And he relishes it. There is no doubt, not angsty whining about how unfair the world is. He seizes the world and shakes it by the throat. He has all the ambition and blood-lust and ruthlessness of any Roman emperor. He is villain writ large, writ epic.
I love the larger than life villains because their excesses, their love of chaos, we enjoy, albeit perhaps with a frown of disapproval while secretly wishing we could be so free. They allow us, humanity, to indulge in our darkest dreams.Who wouldn’t want to be Dracula, to have power over death itself? Or the grandeur of Darth Vader? The Devil has the best tunes and the best lines. Just ask Milton.
Heroes are measured by their bad guys. The tougher the better. They define them. The Batman and the Joker. Holmes and Moriarty (who, if you recall, only appeared in one story ever. Now name me any other of Holmes’s opponents. Not so easy, is it?).
Ravana is the demon king. He kidnaps the princess Sita and unleashes a war with Sita’s husband, Prince Rama. The pair are destined to face each other and their story, the epic the Ramayana is one of my favourites. It’s wildly magical as gods and monkeys and demons and the king of the birds aid or hinder Rama in his search for his wife. The story ends, of course, with a massive battle. The city of demons, Lanka, burns and Ravana defies the gods, fate and Rama ‘till the bitter end, unrepentant up to the moment of his death. His colossal evil and colossal charisma dominates the tale. He has ten heads, twenty arms and once enslaved the gods themselves. Rama has his work cut out for him.
I’ve taken the legend of the Ramayana as the basis of my new book, Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress. Fundamental to Hinduism is the concept of rebirth. From that idea it was a simple one to imagine that now, thousands of years after his death, Ravana is about to be reborn. But as villains come back, then so do heroes. Ash Mistry thinks he’s just a normal 13 year old boy. A bit lazy, a bit chubby and, if we’ll be honest, a bit cowardly. But it falls to him to stop Ravana and he’ll need the aid of the gods to do it. He’ll have to become more than he is and discover his destiny. His lessons will be harsh and there will be blood along the way, a lot of blood. So, if you’re interested in a tale beyond the boundaries of the west and the familiar myths and monsters of Europe, I might just have something for you.