Review Blog

Jun 24 2014

Shahnameh: The Persian book of kings retold by Elizabeth Laird

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Ill. by Shirin Adl. Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 2014. ISBN 9781847804976.
Recommended. The story told in this sumptuously illustrated book is that of Rustam the king's champion and his trials as a warrior. The back stories of his parents and his birth are vividly retold by Laird, a specialist in Middle Eastern stories and a children's fiction writer whose stories are often set in those countries. His father, Zal was born with a shock of white hair, and, convinced that he is a devil, his father abandons him in the desert. Here he is picked up by an eagle who takes him to her nest, giving him the blood and meat of the captured animals she feeds her own young. A marvelous beginning to a great story. All heroes have unusual beginnings and Zol is no exception. He marries a beautiful woman from a neighbouring country and their first child is also born in exceptional circumstances. His wife is in great pain and the baby will not emerge, so he sends for his foster mother and she advices him to cut her belly. So Rustam is born. As a young boy his strength is something to marvel at and he has the promise of being great, but must endure some trials of his courage and abilities.
The story as with all myths and legends, show him in a range of situations, slaying the enraged elephant, taming an untamable stallion to be his own horse, marrying the most beautiful of women, to become the king's champion warrior. We follow his life as he succeeds with his seven trials, and then marries and has his own son, Sohrab.
The illustrations reflect those on manuscripts found of the stories (see Wikipedia) and are a colourful adjunct to the story, making this a book to treasure.
Fran Knight

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