Adapting a tale from a national epic such as the Persian Shanameh, or “Book of Kings,” is a task that takes great artistry. This effort doesn't quite make the grade.
Using an unnecessary frame story, the tale follows the original without the traditional flowery embellishments and can be easily understood. Bijan, a knight, is sent by the Persian king to rid a far-off region of wild boars. During his return, he meets the princess of a neighboring kingdom, Manijeh, but he does not know that she is his enemy’s daughter. She daringly brings Bijan into her father’s fortress, but the lovers are found out. Bijan is thrown into a pit and covered by a magic rock, and the princess is exiled. She eventually finds the pit and feeds the knight through a hole; the rock is immovable. The Persian king realizes that Bijan is not returning and uses his magical golden cup to see Bijan’s plight. He sends Rostam, “the bravest of all knights” to rescue him. Rostam, Bijan and Manijeh return to Persia, and the lovers marry. The paintings, almost too intense in color, are awkwardly rendered and lack the subtle patterned juxtapositions of the Persian miniatures that the artist is trying to imitate. The background note is useful, but the “Interpreting the Story” note will be heavy going for most adults, let alone children, not versed in Persian symbolism.
A worthy but not entirely successful attempt to bring the past’s wisdom to a new audience. (Folktale. 6-10)