Books International It's Monday What Are You Reading Middle Eastern Literature Picture Books Reading Themes

[Monday Reading] Two Versions of Rumi’s Fable/Folktale in “The Secret Message” and “The Parrot And The Merchant”


It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.

Since this is our final week celebrating Middle Eastern literature, I knew that I have to feature these two versions of Rumi’s fable/folktale/poetry. Both are gorgeously illustrated picturebooks.

The Secret Message: Based On A Poem by Rumi

Written by: Mina Javaherbin Illustrated by: Bruce Whatley
Published by: Disney Hyperion Books, 2010 ISBN: 1423110447 (ISBN13: 9781423110446). Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

I read this book back in 2013 and learned about it through Carrie GelsonI was surprised to discover, after searching our archives, that I haven’t featured this book here yet. Essentially, the story revolves around a wealthy Persian merchant who had a favourite parrot that he got from India in his bazaar. This was a talking and singing parrot who enchanted most everyone who passed by the Persian marketplace, bringing many customers to the shop.

When the merchant decided to travel to India to purchase more goods, he asked his parrot what he would like as a present. The parrot noted that he did not want any gifts, he wanted the merchant to convey to other parrots in India flying free how much he misses all of them. The merchant interrupted him, saying how could he be lonely when he lives inside a wonderful golden cage with three swings. To which the parrot replied: “You’re right… Tell them about this cage.”

When the merchant arrived in India, he did convey his favourite bird’s message to the other birds flying free in the skies, but he got a very curious reply. I wouldn’t ruin the “secret message” for you, but suffice it to say that it is thought-provoking and one that would make any reader wonder about what it means to be happy and to fly free.

The Parrot And The Merchant: Based On a Fable by Rumi

Written and Illustrated by: Marjan Vafaian Translated by: Azita Rassi
Published by: Tiny Owl Publishing, 2015 ISBN: 1910328030. Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

I have to admit that between these two books, I loved this one more. There is something about the art that simply spoke to me. Add the fact that the wealthy merchant has been cast as a woman in this tale, unlike in the original poetry by Rumi:

The story follows the same pattern, except that the merchant here is named Mah Jahan, who also loved collecting birds, with her favourite being the bright parrot from India.

Perhaps it is the vivid art, the gentle storytelling, the ending that I am already familiar with, or just the overall layout and design that made this an instant favourite. Or perhaps, it is a the letting go and realization displayed by Mah Jahan in the end that made me like this story more.

These stories would make any reader ruminate upon the nature of happiness and what it means to truly love another being.

7 comments on “[Monday Reading] Two Versions of Rumi’s Fable/Folktale in “The Secret Message” and “The Parrot And The Merchant”

  1. These sound like lovely picture books. I am curious about what the free parrots had to say.


  2. These sound great. What an interesting fable. Love the message about happiness and love. Thanks for sharing!


  3. lindabaie

    Thanks, Myra, both will be wonderful to read!


  4. As I started to read your review about the first book, I was sure that I had read it before. Still I have no record of it on my blog or goodreads. I suspect that it was one of the picture books that I bought for the library, but didn’t record. Maybe it was just the same story by a different author. I’d love to read The Parrot And The Merchant if only it was available from my library.


  5. It’s so fascinating to see the different ways that authors and illustrators can explore and interpret the same source material to create their own unique stories that respect the originals but add their own fresh spins.


  6. Pussreboots

    Interesting compare and contrast post today. It’s been a busy week with a cracked toilet, day camp, and paperwork for cross country. Come see what I’m reading


  7. Pingback: [Saturday Reads] Favourite Titles Across GatheringBooks’ 2017 Reading Themes – Gathering Books

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: