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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)
Maya: The Adventures of a Bee
by Waldemar Bonsels
Age Range: 9-11
Maya is a young bee educated by her governess Miss Cassandra who instructs her about the beauties and dangers of the outside world. Maya is no ordinary bee and yearns to explore the environment outside the hive. Despite warnings from Miss Cassandra Maya wants to explore and commits the unforgivable act of leaving the hive. Now in exile Maya makes friends with many other insects including Conrad, the scavenger beetle, who proves to be a very good friend when Maya gets herself tangled up in a spider’s web.
Maya braves great danger including becoming a prisoner of the hornets, the bees sworn enemy. Now Maya faces a moral dilemma and must make a difficult decision after learning of their planned attack of her native hive. Should she return to the hive or say nothing and let the Hornets destroy it. What will she decide?
Despite the fact the book was published more than 100 years ago, it still maintains a relevance today. This translation by Charlotte Remfry-Kidd is exquisite and reads so fluently.
German author, Waldemar Bonsels (1880-1952) had some unsavoury political views and was an outspoken anti-Semite expressing his approval of Nazi policies against the Jews in an article ‘NSDAP und Judentum’ written in May 1933 which was widely published. Nevertheless, the book still remains popular and was written and published well before Bonsel’s expressed support for Hitler and the Third Reich.
A testament to this is the many translations in different languages as well as the various adaptations in different mediums including a silent film in 1924, restored in 2005 and released on DVD in 2012; a Japanese anime Maya the Honey Bee 1975 which has been dubbed into 42 languages; a television series 2012 and 2017 and a film adaptation based on the television series, 2014 with a sequel Maya the Bee: The Honey Games, 2018. There has also been an opera, musical and puppet show as well as numerous video games and merchandising.