King Solomon’s Ring
An original, sparkling and beautifully illustrated tale based around the ancient myths about King Solomon
There are many stories in the Jewish, Islamic and Arab traditions about the wise King Solomon. Following Solomon’s adage that ‘a good word makes the heart glad’, Lida Dijkstra has distilled out of this tangle a colourful fairy tale that, together with Martijn van der Linden’s beautiful, eloquent full-page illustrations, evokes the atmosphere of the Thousand and One Nights and positively begs to be read out loud.
The protagonist in De ring van koning Salomo (King Solomon’s Ring) is the orphan Sem, the ‘oil boy’ who fills the lamps at Solomon’s court, where the old inventor Bakbakkar takes him under his wing. Through Sem’s eyes, we become acquainted with Solomon, the rich and powerful king who, as the head of the Jewish Court of Justice, uses his profound wisdom to settle even the most compli- cated disputes. But when Solomon loses his magical star ring, which was forged by the archangel Michael, he apparently transforms into a man possessed by the devil. Has the demon king Asmodeus got hold of the ring so that he and his ‘princes of darkness’ can disturb the balance of the world? Sem decides to take action, with the help of a flying carpet and Iryt, a girl from Sheba.
The form of Dijkstra’s story is a non- rhyming narrative poem. Very skilfully, in vivid, timeless language that fits with the tradition of oral storytelling, Dijkstra interweaves Sem’s story with the tale of the eternal struggle between the worlds above and below − effectively depicted by Van der Linden on every page in earthy shades of brown and heavenly blue − and the classic Solomon stories about greed versus charity. The story about the child with two mothers, the story of the field of brotherly love, the construction of the First Temple and a number of Biblical proverbs: they’re all in there. And, as the book says, ‘Sometimes you don’t see what’s there. Sometimes you see what’s not there.’ Meanwhile Dijkstra’s subtle humour keeps the tone light. That makes this beautifully designed book an accessible story that is both rich and layered.