Biblical fiction—adaptations

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Do you read biblical fiction, that  is fiction based on the stories in the Bible? Maybe you write it.

The most common way of writing such a story is to fictionalize the Bible characters, perhaps create a few new ones, and tell the story in all its imagined detail but still set in the time and place that the Bible events occurred.

There is another way. It is taking the Bible themes and characters and transplanting them into another time and setting.

A few years ago Pacific Theatre did this with the story of Joseph and his brothers, performing what they called an ‘adaptation.’  Here’s is a description of that play, “Remnants (A Fable),” from the theatre’s website :

“…this refreshingly direct variation of an ancient tale traces a young man’s journey from a Polish shtetl to the work camps of depression-era Canada. Rising to become an advisor to Prime Minister Mackenzie King, Joseph is sent to turn back a boatload of European Jews – only to discover his brothers among the refugees.” Read entire …

Another adaptation I bumped into recently was the story of Esther with mouse characters (read “The Mouse King” on the website of Clubhouse Jr.).

Below is a review of still another adaptation. The Bark of the Bog Owl is Book One of a series about King David from the Old Testament. Author Jonathan Rogers has set this story for middle-grade readers in a fantasy time and place. Though this series is several years old (Book 1 came out in 2004), books like this are really timeless. If you’re looking for a fun series for children 8-12, consider these Wilderking books (Book 2 – The Secret of the Swamp King; Book 3 – The Way of the Wilderking).

My review of Bark of the Bog Owl:

Bark of the Bog Owl - Jonathan RogersTake places like Tambluff Castle, Feechiefen Swamp, Bonifay Plain and Greasy Cave. Now mix them with characters like Aidan Errolson, Dobro, King Darrow, Bayard the Truth Speaker, a contingent of scheming Pyrthens and you have The Bark of the Bog Owl, the first book of Jonathan Rogers’ Wilderking Trilogy.

In this series Rogers retells the story of David from the Old Testament. However, with the exception of the main plot line there is little else predictable about the story. The reworked characters have been transplanted to a medieval fantasyland which has a more-than-passing resemblance to Rogers’ native Georgia — as the jacket notes describe it: “a fantasy-adventure story told in an American accent.”

The book is a lively read. Twelve-year-old Aidan, his new friend Dobro, the Feechiefolk, Aidan’s brothers and the Pyrthens mix it up in play, celebration, arguments, hand-to-hand fights and a genuine battle. The action and adventure are also delivered with generous doses of humor in silly songs, rhymes and Mr. Rogers’ droll way with words.

Themes that come out in this tale are love of God and country, bravery, honor and on Aidan’s part, a thirst for action and adventure.

Though we get to know Aidan best, there are other interesting characters as well — the mysterious Dobro, Aidan’s somewhat jealous and condescending brothers and my favorite, Bayard the Truth Speaker.

It is Bayard’s wisdom, delivered in the mysterious voice of an authentic but weird prophet that had me, adult that I am, reaching for my highlighter. “Live the life that unfolds before you,” he tells Aidan on their first meeting. Later he reassures him, “Do not ask, ‘Am I being a fool?’ Ask, ‘Am I being the right sort of fool?’” It is this sage foundation that anchors the story and gives it a value which extends beyond hours of entertaining reading.

Kids in Grades 3-6 will enjoy this series. If I were the parent though, I wouldn’t give it to them to read. Rather I’d read it aloud to them myself and join in the fun.

Find out more about the author, and the Wilderking Trilogy plus see other books Jonathan Rogers has authored) on Rogers’ website (click on “About the books”)

(This review was first published on Blogcritics in 2006)

Title: The Bark Of The Bog Owl (The Wilderking Trilogy)
Author: Jonathan Rogers
Publisher: B&H Publishers, 2004, Hardcover and Kindle editions, 231 pages.
ISBN-10: 0805431314

Do you read biblical fiction? What do you like about it? Dislike?

Michal: A Novel by Jill Eileen Smith (review)


Michal: A Novel by Jill Eileen SmithMichael: A Novel (Wives of King David) by Jill Eileen Smith is a fictional retelling of the story of King David’s first wife Michal—the daughter of Saul. Smith follows Michal from the time she is a teenager cowering under the rages of her demonically possessed father, to middle age when her scorn at David’s exuberant dance causes her to fall from the king’s favor. (Though this latter may sound like a spoiler it really isn’t because Smith follows the biblical account where the events of Michal’s life are written plainly for anyone to read.)

I found the book an interesting story. Through it I experienced the confusion and strife of King Saul’s home. I felt the conflicting emotions of a young woman who weds the man she loves, only to have him driven away by her father who is possessed by jealousy over David’s popularity with the people. When she and David are reunited, she faces issues like being part of a harem and belonging to a former king’s family. Though her personal ambition, together with the strong, determined personality Smith has given her make her a somewhat unsympathetic character, it seems a realistic interpretation of one of the Bible’s fascinating females.

I appreciate the respect with which Smith handles the biblical account. In an author’s note at the end of the book she says, “I have done my best to stay true to Scripture throughout the novel.” In that vein she begins each major division of the story with Bible quotes that foundation the events within the section. Of course her telling adds many details, but I never felt that they were inconsistent with or contradicted the Bible account.

If you’re a fan of biblical fiction, you won’t want to miss Michal.

Extras from the author’s website:

Title: Michal: A Novel (The Wives of King David)
Author: Jill Eileen Smith
Publisher: Revell, March, 2009, available in hardcover, paperback & Kindle editions, 383 pages.