By Brenda E. F. Beck. University of Toronto Press 2023.
In Hidden Paradigms, anthropologist Brenda E.F. Beck describes The Legend of Ponnivala, an oral epic from rural South India. Recorded in 1965, this story was sung to a group of village enthusiasts by a respected pair of local bards. This grand legend took more than thirty-eight hours to complete over eighteen nights. Bringing this unique example of Tamil culture to the attention of an international audience, Beck compares this virtually unknown South Indian epic to five other culturally significant works – the Ojibwa Nanabush cycle, the Mahabharata, an Icelandic Saga, the Bible, and the Epic of Gilgamesh – establishing this foundational Tamil story as one that engages with the same universal human struggles and themes present throughout the world. Copiously illustrated, Hidden Paradigms provides a fresh example of the power of comparative thinking, offering a humanistic complement to scientific reasoning.