In this version of an ancient but topical tale first recorded in 10th-century Iraq, abused animals and the heedless humans who afflict them argue their cases before a celestial judge.
The “winged and webbed, hoofed and horned” creatures of Emerald Isle live in peace until people arrive to cut down the trees for homes and to hunt the animals for food and luxuries. Finally, the remaining animals summon their Spirit King, Bersaf, to call on the humans to answer for their acts. The humans respond first with blank denial, then a claim that they’re only bringing order to wild nature, and finally just bluster. When the animals effectively counter each of these arguments, Bersaf rules that henceforth the humans shall feel the animals’ pain in their own hearts. This establishes a “hopeful peace” on the island…which is called Earth. Lumbard adds a loving lad named Adam to the original as a stand-in for young readers and also has Bersaf speak (usually) in lumbering verse: “O human folk, please answer now / This charge of rule by fear. / The beasts say you do great harm / Throughout my Emerald Sphere.” In a rare departure from Demi’s usual reverent or gently humorous spirituality, the illustrations include gory views of whipped animals and dripping meat hanging in a butcher’s stall interspersed with more typical scenes of delicately drawn figures floating gracefully in diaphanous settings.
Some explicit brutality in the pictures adds sobering notes to this pointed fable. (source note) (Picture book/folk tale. 6-9)