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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)
Jackal Who Thought He Was a Peacock (The)
by A Fable by Rumi Retold by Fereshteh Sarlak
Age Range: 6-8
Based on a traditional fable by Rumi, a 13th-century Persian mystic and poet, this retelling of the story by Fereshteh Sarlak is also very evocative of the later Hans Christian Anderson tales. This hints at the timelessness of this tale, one that has echoes in fables and mythical tales through the ages. We follow our jackal in his desperate quest to be a peacock. He tries to disguise himself in the beautiful colours he associates with the vibrancy of the peacock and each time he fails to convince the other jackals of his new form he is renewed with a deeper desire and passion to achieve his transformation. At times appearing foolish, the Jackal is scorned by the other animals in the pursuit of his dream – but this does not stop him from ever more creative and feverish attempts. The ending is wonderfully nuanced and remains open for lots of interpretation. He doesn’t seem to reach a sense of contentment at the end, still hoping that he might one day become a peacock but being equally drawn back to his jackal friends when they call – is he happier now that he has come to accept he won’t be a jackal? Has he really given up hope or is that just what he’s told his friends? It is a great stimulus to look at ideas of acceptance, difference and the pursuit of dreams – however fanciful they might appear.
The illustrations by Firoozeh Golmohammadi are beautiful and yet evocative of the slightly dark nature of this tale, hinting at something deeper than the first layer of story might have us believe. Though interspersed with flashes of bright and bold colour as the jackal plays with his form, there is a grey hue that seems to envelop the pictures suggesting perhaps a feeling of sadness, with shadows falling on the last page depicting dusk and the bright sun’s retreat into the dark.
Laura Davies (2016)