In this interfaith and multicultural fable, eloquent representatives of all members of the animal kingdom—from horses to bees—come before the respected Spirit King to complain of the dreadful treatment they have suffered at the hands of humankind. During the ensuing trial, where both humans and animals testify before the King, both sides argue their points ingeniously, deftly illustrating the validity of both sides of the ecology debate.
The ancient antecedents of this tale are thought to have originated in India, with the first written version penned in Arabic sometime before the 10th century in what is now Iraq. Much later, this version of the story was translated into Hebrew in 14th century France and was popular in European Jewish communities into the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This exquisite English translation, illustrated with 12 original color illumination plates, is useful in introducing young and old alike to environmental and animal rights issues.
The first written version of the story was penned in Arabic by members of the Islamic “Brethren of Purity”, Ikhwan al-Safa, a Sufi order, in the environs of Basra, Iraq, sometime before the tenth century of the Common Era. In their version, the story was the twenty-fifth of fifty-one “letters”, or treatises, the Rasa’il comprising an encyclopedia, in which were described the mysteries and meaning of life.