Children’s fantasy series: Into the magical village of Gol Gumbad

Author Shobhita Narayan, on her book Midaash & Maitreyi’s Magical Mayhem, in which old fairy tales get an Indian twist

Published - March 30, 2024 04:40 pm IST

Shobhita Narayan, cover of her book ‘Midaash & Maitreyi’s Magical Mayhem’

Shobhita Narayan, cover of her book ‘Midaash & Maitreyi’s Magical Mayhem’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

How about giving old fairy tales a new spin in an Indian setting? In her debut book of fiction for children aged between eight and 12, author Shobita Narayan leads her readers into a village named Gol Gumbad. An old mage visits the village and grants magical powers to the children, sparking a series of events. Through six standalone tales that are interlinked to form a larger narrative, she builds a world with magic in Midaash & Maitreyi’s Magical Mayhem (Scholastic India publication, available on e-commerce platforms and bookstores).

Shobhita reimagines Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel, Pied Piper, The Three Little Pigs, The Snow Queen, and The Selfish Giant in an imaginary world within India. 

The author, who divides her time between Hyderabad and New Delhi, says the book was a happy accident. She had been working on a dark adult fantasy fiction series for a decade but felt it had hit a stumbling block. “Sometime in 2022, I realised that the book was not coming together as I expected it to,” she recalls. She then revisited a short story she had written in her college days as a spin-off of Rapunzel. “I thought let me play around with it and it organically took on a new life of its own. Once I had bid goodbye to my initial idea of an adult fantasy series, this set of fantasy stories for children took shape and I enjoyed exploring a new realm as a writer.”

As she worked on the stories, Shobhita realised that these could cater to children who have just begun reading independently. She began weaving in small messages such as the importance of being confident and being empathetic towards people. “I kept the language simple so that children could read on their own but retained some complexity in the stories that go back and forth in time.” The sixth story, serving as a finale and connecting the five tales to present a larger picture, was not intentional, says Shobhita. “It came about once the five stories were done.”

The stories are illustrated by Charbak Dipta, reflecting the joyous and adventurous nature of the children who are part of the magical world.

Shobhita explains that a lot of thought went into naming the characters, drawing from different parts of India. Young triplets in the book are named after the stars Rohini, Ashwini and Bharani; the boy Korou and the horse Achanba get their names from the Manipuri language while Chittaa denotes spotted, aptly named for the character of the girl with spotted skin. 

The book includes a map sketched by Shobhita to show the different regions in the fictitious world — kingdoms of Saluka and Taluka and the Gol Gumbad village surrounded by mountains, forests, apple groves, a fort, a castle, a broken bridge, meadows, lakes and the camping area of a travelling circus. A fun quiz and a puzzle make it interactive. 

Taking stock of her first book, Shobhita says that her early beginnings as a writer received validation when she was chosen as a runner-up in a contest by Readers Digest Asia in 2013. She worked as a marketing and publicity professional with publishers such as Hachette India and Simon and Schuster India, before moving on to work in the communications wing of a tech firm. The experience, she says, gave her a ringside view of creative and marketing aspects.

As she juggles a day job with her creative writing, Shobhita reveals that she has plans for another book soon. She jots down ideas in a notebook throughout the week and revisits them over the weekend to see how they develop into stories. “I have a manuscript ready and plan to revisit it soon.”

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