Exquisite, jewel-like illustrations grace every page of this thought-provoking retelling of the ancient fable from the pen of 13th C poet/philosopher Rumi. Gloriously visualised by Marjan Vafaian who has made the merchant a woman, it tells of said merchant, named Mah Jahan who collects and cages beautiful birds for her own pleasure, and one particular bird, her favourite an Indian parrot. A parrot that is able to talk.
When Mah Jahan is set to return to India on a trading mission, she asks her servants what gifts they’d like brought back. She also asks her parrot, whose response is this: “Please say hello to my parrot friends in India. Tell them that I miss them, and that makes me sad. Ask them if they have any advice for me.”
Mah Jahan promises to do so and sets off on her journey…
In India, with her trading complete, Mah Jahan heads for the jungle in search of the parrots. She passes on the message as promised and although the parrots are unable to speak they can communicate. Indeed, one becomes completely still and then plummets down from the tree.
Mah Jahan decides to keep quiet about this terrible alarming occurrence but when confronted by her own enquiring parrot on her return, she decides to say what happened. Her account is met with a silent response and then he too drops to the floor. Convinced he has died, a weeping Mah Jahan carefully lifts the bird only to discover it is still alive. Thereupon it flies into a tree rejoicing in its freedom – the gift she’s brought from India. As the parrot takes flight to its true home, a confused Mar Jahan then realizes, how much she loves that bird, that freedom is what it needs and that freedom will bring her happiness too.
A truly wonderful amalgam of words and pictures for all ages.
Use your local bookshop
- The Parrot and the Merchant teaches us about true love. Link
- Read David Almond’s words about this book in the Guardian. Link
- A blog about a storytelling event of this book at Belsize Library. Link
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