The Twins and the Bird of Darkness: A Hero Tale from the Caribbean

Overview

When a benevolent king and his daughter, Princess Marie, find their peaceful kingdom threatened by an enormous, evil, seven-headed bird, the brave princess offers herself as the bird's hostage in order to prevent the entire kingdom from being thrust into eternal darkness.

As soon as Soliday, a kindhearted, hardworking, and generous youth hears about the princess's sacrifice, he vows to kill the Bird of Darkness and save Marie. His identical twin brother -- the jealous, lazy, and...

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Overview

When a benevolent king and his daughter, Princess Marie, find their peaceful kingdom threatened by an enormous, evil, seven-headed bird, the brave princess offers herself as the bird's hostage in order to prevent the entire kingdom from being thrust into eternal darkness.

As soon as Soliday, a kindhearted, hardworking, and generous youth hears about the princess's sacrifice, he vows to kill the Bird of Darkness and save Marie. His identical twin brother -- the jealous, lazy, and dishonest Salacotta -- accompanies Soliday on the dangerous journey, but doesn't lift a finger in order to rescue the princess or slay the monstrous bird. And the second Salacotta sees his chance to claim that he was the one who freed the princess, he does just that.

Will Soliday be able to convince everyone that he is indeed who he says? Will his brother admit his treachery? Will Soliday ever be able to trust his twin again?

This timeless and resonant folktale about the forces of good and evil and the redemptive power of brotherly love is the perfect story for the ages.

When the Bird of Darkness takes Princess Marie, twin brothers Soliday, who is brave and kind, and Salacota, who is cowardly, set off to fight the beast and rescue the princess.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
A foregone conclusion doesn't make the story any less interesting -- and readers certainly don't need to be twins to enjoy it. Terry Widener's lush illustrations beautifully depict the island paradise, the terrible bird and the happy ending. — Rebecca Boggs Roberts
Publishers Weekly
San Souci (Cendrillon) returns to a Caribbean setting for this composite tale relayed in lush jungle colors and featuring a macabre multiheaded monster. When the baleful Bird of Darkness, its seven eagle-like heads on serpentine necks, claims an island princess for its own, twin brothers set out to save her. But the twins are opposite in nature: Soliday (who, like the biblical Joseph, wears a coat of many colors) is altruistic and hardworking, while lazy, conniving Salacota happily betrays his own brother. Widener's (If the Shoe Fits; Forecasts, May 6) stylized perspectives heighten the sinister aspects of the plot, but his vivid acrylics create a subtle, disquieting tension that intensifies the story's suspense. In a characteristically striking juxtaposition, a tangerine sky is visible outside a sorcerer's shadowy hut, contrasting with the dark skull and crossbones hanging just inside. Color figures prominently in the layout as well, with warm hues backing lengthy blocks of text. The plot moves swiftly through treachery and triumph, but is not without its grisly moments, as when the bird issues a gruesome greeting to Soliday: "I'll strike the bargain I struck with the others:/ You give me your eyes and liver,/ I'll give you swift death in return." This well-wrought tale will best suit those who like their happily-ever-afters preceded by a good case of the shivers. Ages 5-10. (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Based on a composite of thirteen variant tales from Guadeloupe, this story features familiar folktale elements, perhaps because it has its roots in European tales such as the Brothers Grimm's "The Three Princesses in Whiteland." Two identical twin brothers, the kind and good Soliday and the cowardly and selfish Salacota, set off to save a princess who has been carried off by a seven-headed black bird. Aided by a wizard's beads and poisonous ointment, the boys are supposed to trade beads for feathers, fletch an arrow tipped with the poison and kill the bird. Soliday does this, but Salacota tricks him and returns to court alone with the princess and with proof that he has killed the bird. When Soliday finally returns, he is able to convince the king of his true identity because he saved the golden beaks from the bird he slew while the evil Salacota only captured the heads as proof. Acrylic paintings with Widener's rounded brown figures and the lush colorful landscapes show up well to groups of listeners, and the smooth telling of this somewhat lengthy tale reads aloud well. Children will enjoy picking out the many motifs that give this folktale resonance. 2002, Simon & Schuster,
— Susan Hepler
School Library Journal
Gr 2-6-San Souci has forged several tales into a cohesive narrative about a young man who rescues a princess (and his island nation) from the Bird of Darkness. While the story of a heroic delivery of a damsel in distress is certainly a familiar one, the author introduces a new element-the representation of good and evil as identical twin brothers. Soliday is kindhearted and brave. His brother, Salacota, is mean-spirited, jealous, and fearful. Distraught because the Bird has caused darkness, crop failure, and much suffering, Princess Marie offers to go and live on the mountaintop with it. Soliday, with the help of his grandmother and a sorcerer, slays the beast, but Salacota pretends to be his brother and steals away with Marie, gaining the praise of the king and the promise of his daughter's hand. But the princess, who is not only honest, but also insightful, suspects the deception and delays the marriage. In the end, Soliday proves his deed, wins Marie's love, and accepts Salacota's apologies and pledge of lifelong loyalty. San Souci's story is a worldly one, laden with symbolism and magical allusions. Older readers may comprehend the complex ideas but the "rescue" scenario will appeal to younger children, if read aloud. Widener's paintings are rendered in clear jewel tones, suggestive of the lush Caribbean landscape. The folk-art style works wonderfully with the text. A fine addition to folktale collections.-Barbara Buckley, Rockville Centre Public Library, NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
San Souci (The Birds of Killingworth, p. 572, etc.), one of the premier promoters of the folkloric tradition, always provides a careful author's note detailing the origins of his stories, several of which have recently come from the Caribbean. This tale comes from Guadeloupe and the author states that it "is composited in the main from thirteen variant tales" collected by Elsie Clews Parsons as well as other tales by Philip Sherlock and Lafcadio Hearn. San Souci also mentions that the story has European roots. The motifs in the story, the good brother and the evil brother; the princess who has to be rescued, and the slaying of a monster with the help of magic, are all common enough in many cultures and usually make for an exciting story. The text has its dramatic high points, but unfortunately, the narrative is undermined by the illustrations. With the exaggeration and cartoon-like style of Widener's (If the Shoe Fits, p. 189, etc.) paintings, this hero tale seems less than heroic. Sure, the princess is rescued, but the beads of sweat all over the hero's body, when he tries to get out of the ravine into which he has fallen, look like a grade-B comic book. The large eyes and round heads of the characters have a silly, almost stereotypical look that just doesn't work with this type of serious traditional tale. The clothing and the palace do not belong in the Caribbean. Only when the Bird of Darkness with its seven rainbow-colored heads appears, does the book reverberate with any real power. (author's note) (Picture book/folktale. 8-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689833434
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publication date: 9/28/2002
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 5 - 10 Years
  • Lexile: 810L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 10.81 (w) x 10.06 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert D. San Souci the critically acclaimed author of many popular books for young people. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Visit his Web site at www.rsansouci.com.
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