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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Bijan and Manije
by Retelling by Ali Seidabadi, edited by Nicolette Jones
Age Range: 6-8
The people of Iran and the neighbouring country of Turan are enemies. Turan is ruled by a tyrant, King Afrasaib, while Iran is ruled over by good King Khosrow. When the forest on the border of Iran is overrun with wild boar the Armenians living there plead with King Khosrow for help. Bijan, a young and brave Persian knight offers to go and tackle the wild boar and the king sends his head of the army General Gorgin to accompany him. When General Gorgin takes fright he leaves Bijan to do battle with the wild boar alone. By a twist of fate Bijan comes face to face with the daughter of Iran’s enemy, King Afrasaib. They fall in love, but it is doomed from the start, especially when Manije’s father hears about it. A terrible punishment awaits unless Iran’s greatest knight, Rostam can save the day.
The story of Bijan and Manije is an ancient epic story from the ‘Shahnameh’ (The Book of Kings). Ferdowsi, the 10th century Persian poet, gathered the historical stories and myths of Persia in the form of a poem. The Book of Kings was traditionally the base of Pardekhani, a type of storytelling for the public where illustrations were made on large canvases and a narrator read the poems to the audience in coffee houses and streets.
With echoes of Romeo and Juliet, this is a story of love across the divide, but with a distinctive Persian flavour. The heroine Manije is a feisty princess with a mind of her own, while Bijan is a gentle but heroic knight who does not hesitate to offer his king his services.
Beautifully retold and carefully updated for a younger audience by Ali Seidabadi, a writer and poet for children and young adults, it has been translated by Azita Rassi and edited by Nicolette Jones. The exquisitely colourful illustrations by Marjan Vafaian are stunning and really capture this timeless story.