The Anglo-Ethiopian Society

Book Review - The Prince who Walked with Lions

Elizabeth Laird

Reviewer - Sandy Holt-Wilson

Those who know Elizabeth Laird and her writing, coupled with her love of Ethiopia, will not be surprised by this book. It is an excellent read for her target audience which has to be those of 8 years and upwards who can break with the fashionable obsessions with witches, werewolves, and vampires. She appears modest on this occasion about including a full biography of her previous literary credentials!

It is the story of Prince Alamayu, the son of Emperor Theodore. It is told in the first person through the eyes of the Prince himself. In Elizabeth's words: "I have taken some liberties with the story, particularly after he arrived in Britain (and I have omitted the time in India altogether)". This is no loss as the book does not claim to be historical and the context is explained by a foreword and an afterword. The content mainly passes through two big episodes of Alamayu's short life. The battle of Magdala, the family relationships, and the actions and thoughts of a small boy at that time are built on well documented sources.

The time at Rugby School flows well and has been researched to capture a good mood of time at a public school in the 1870s. The book easily and skillfully uses flashbacks from Alamayu's sick bed at Rugby School to build up the picture of his past life. There are true lovable heroes such as Captain Speedy and a good assortment of well depicted villains.

The story is essentially a sad one, but children will be able to empathise with this sorrow. They will enjoy the times of adult and youthful friendships and the way that obstacles are overcome. The character of Alamayu develops in a very realistic way through the book.

Other books have been written about Prince Alamayu. Some have been bare little histories and others total fantasies. One ended with Alamayu being popped down a hole in the ground underneath a rock at Magdala to emerge from a tunnel in Gorgora!

One of the two end papers could have been a plan of the relationship of Magdala to Selamgie and even of the buildings on Magdala itself instead of both being given over to the line of the march from Zulla. The pictures are well positioned to maintain interest and are integrated on the text paper. Victorian photographs as well as material from the Illustrated London News of the day are well reproduced.

This excellent hard back book is beautifully written, modestly priced, and historically accurate within its own terms of reference. It is to be strongly recommended.

The Prince who Walked with Lions book cover

The Prince who Walked with Lions
Elizabeth Laird
Macmillan, London, 2012
ISBN 9780230752436
Hardback 304 pages; 198 x 134mm
monotone illustrations
Price £12.99

First Published in News File Summer 2012

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