The Ocean of Story, or, to give it its full Sanskrit title, the Katha Sarit Sagara, is, for its size, the earliest collection of stories extant in the world. Its author, or rather its compiler, was a Brahman named Somadeva. Unfortunately we know nothing of him, except what he himself has told us in the short poem at the end of his work, and what we may gather of his ideas and religious beliefs from the work itself.
In the first place let us look at the title he has chosen for his collection. He felt that his great work united in itself all stories, as the ocean does all rivers. Every stream of myth and mystery flowing down from the snowy heights of sacred Himalaya would sooner or later reach the ocean, other streams from other mountains would do likewise, till at last fancy would create an ocean full of stories of every conceivable description—tales of wondrous maidens and their fearless lovers, of kings and cities, of statecraft and intrigue, of magic and spells, of treachery, trickery, murder and war, tales of blood-sucking vampires, devils, goblins and ghouls, stories of animals in fact and fable, and stories too of beggars, ascetics, drunkards, gamblers, prostitutes and bawds.
This is the Ocean of Story; this the mirror of Indian imagination that Somadeva has left as a legacy to posterity.