Kannada literature has a rich and hoary tradition of fables, parables and short stories. The first ever such work is Vaddarathane which belongs to the ninth century AD.
Vaddarathane is a treasure of stories in verse told in Hale or old Kannada. There are 19 stories and almost all of them are lengthy and teach the doctrines of Jainism. The story about “The Sage and monkey” is worth reading.
Vaddarathane is by Shivakotiacharya and it is important as it is the earliest extant prose work in Kannada. It is a didactic work and is based on Harisena’s Brhatkathakosa.
The Vaddarathane gives a detailed description of the life of Jain saint Bhadrabahu of Shravanabelagola.
Shivakotiacharya was a native of Kogali in
district. The list of stories in the work are: Story of Sukumara swamy, Story of Sukaushala swamy, Gajakumara, Sanathkumara prince. Annii kavrutha, Bhadrabhau bhatarara, Lalithaghate, Dharmaghosha, Siridhinnia bhatarara, Vrushabha sena bhatarara, Karthika rishi, Abhayaghosha rishi, Vidyuthchoraa rishi, Gurudatta bhatarara, Chilata putra, Dandaka rishi, Mahendradattacharyaand Bellary
Chanakya rishi and Vrushabhasena rishi
Another equally important work is Panchatantra by Durgasimha. It was written in 1031 and it is based on the Panchatantra of Vasubhagabhatta and not onm the original Panchatantra written by Vishnu Sharma.
This is the first collection of fables translated into a regional language. It has 60 fables and they are interwoven with ethical teachings and slokas.
Durgasimha has included 13 stories of his own. He was a minister of war and peace (Sandhi Vigrahi) of the Wetern Chalukya King Jayasimha, the second (also known as Jagadekamalla. 1018–1042). All the stories have morality as the theme and carry a summary section (Katha Shloka). The Kannada version is the earliest Indian vernacular version.
Another fable writer is the Jain monk Nayasena. He is a master narrator and his important work is Dharmarita. Though all the stories here cannot be considered as fables, there are 15 fables such as “Yajnadatta” and “The mangoose, animals and Goldsmith who have fallen into a well”, “Kapilaka and the young elephant”.
During the 19th century, many fables and parables came to be published. The fables of Hitopdesha was first published in the early half of the 19th century.
In 1840, the translation of Aesop’s Fables was published by Walter Elliot (1803-1877), a British civil service officer, stationed in Karnataka. He wanted this collection to be brought out as a text book. He is the same Elliot who was among the two British officers captured by Kittur Rani Chenamma in 1824. Elliot was then the Deputy Collector of Dharwad.
Eliott was lucky as the Collecter of Dharwad, Thackeray, was killed in the battle.
The same year, W C Worth of the Basel Mission, also published his version of Aesop's fables in Kannada.
Manvi Veerappa wrote Kathasagara in 1851. The stories here are narrated by Kathasagar to King Vajrachudamani. Some of eh stories are vulgar and the narration is not all that good.
Next comes the collection of stories by Adakki Subbaraya published by
in 1846. Here, the parable of “Soldier and his sword”, gives us a lesson about good and bad. The story of “ Vulture and cow” tells us how a doctor who cannot cure his patients can also be useful to them. Madras University
Katha Saptati is a collection of fables published by Wesleyan Mission,
from 1830-40. The fables are selected from the Panchatantra and Aesop’s Tales. Rev. D Sanderson of the Mysore published two volumes of Katha Sangraha to enable foreigners to study Kannada. Mission
M S Puttana, the novelist, has made a name for himself as a wroter of fables. His work Niti Chintamani has 150 stories and it was first published in 1884.Apart from fables and parables, this book has tales from other great works as well.
F Kittel of the Basel Mission edited and published Panchatantra in 1864, while Rev Garrent of the same mission translated Panchatantra in 1865. The Wodeyar King of
, Mummadi Krishnaraja, translated Panchatantra in Kannada in 1865. Mysore
M S Pujar’s work, Durgasimha Panchatantra, was prescribed as a text book in the early years of the 20th century.
Devadu Narasimha Shastry translated Vishnu Sharma’s Panchatantra in modern Kannada.
G.P. Rajaratnam has pioneered translation of Jataka tales in Kannada. He published Budhana Jatakagalu in 1937.
Then comes Rev. Cherapa Uttangi’s Drishanta Darpana (1939), which is a book of stories with philosophy. Sali Ramachandra Rao translated in simple Kannada stories in his Buddha Jatakagalu (1948). Ambale Ramakrishna (A R) Krishnashastry’s (1890-1968) Kathamitra (1952) is a treasure trove of stories. There are stories of Panchatantra also. The fable of Punyakoti is well-known.