Today’s folk tale comes to us from Iran, originally included in the Shahnameh, “The Book of Kings,” an epic poem written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi around 1000 AD. The original poem consists of 60,000 verses and tells mainly the mythical and to some extent the historical past of Iran from the creation of the world until the Islamic conquest of Persia in the 7th century. The Knight, the Princess & the Rock is part of that poem, the love story of a young warrior and a beautiful princess retold by Sara Azizi.
The King sent a brave young knight, Bijan, to help some farmers whose farms were being destroyed by wild boars. Bijan drives offf the boars, but on the way home falls in love with a beautiful princess, Manijeh, the daughter of an enemy of Persia, the king of Turan. Her father banishes her from the palace and imprisons Bijan in a deep pit covered by a magical rock that cannot be moved. Manijeh find the pit and lowers food down to Bijan, waiting desperately for help.
The King of Persia uses his golden cup and sees what has happened to Bijan. The King knew only one man could save Bijan, Rostam, his most trusted knight, strong, wise and powerful. Rostam comes up with a plan and enters the enemy country dressed as a merchant. Manijeh learns who this merchant is and twlls him where to find Bijan. When Rostam arrived at the pit, he realized that only the power of prayer could overcome the magic of the rock, so he put all his heart and mind into his praying and was able to move the rock and save Bijan.
And now for the happy ending: Rostam, Bijan and Manijeh all go back to Persia where Bijan and the princess marry and live happily ever after.
I enjoyed the story. It’s simply told but still full of magic and romance, star-crossed lovers who actually get their happy ending. The author included an interpretation at the end explainig the King of Persia represents God and Bijan is sent out to conquer the evils of the world, but did not conquer the evil in his own heart, which led to his imprisonment. Rostam is the savior sent by the king to save humankind, represented by Bijan. It’s an interesting addition, but to be honest I prefer the story as a simple adventure romance. That’s just me though, and parents/teachers will probably find it helpful.
The illustrations in this version, done by Alireza Sadeghian, compliment the story. The pictures, including several full page ones, are bright and colorful with clean lines and I felt they represented the artistic style of Persia.
I like sharing stories of other cultures with our kids and this is a good one, but not necessarily a great one. The story is clear but maybe a little too factual. It’s not one I’d want to read over and over. The illustrations, however, are definitely a highlight.
Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.