Themes: Christmas, Magi, Gift, Myrrh, Tears, work, death, family, culture
Linda’s and Bagram introduce us to a young boy and his father, a collector of “tears,” the sap from trees that form after the tree’s bark is cut, perhaps as the tree is crying. His father is showing him the route and the way of business, how to find good trees, where to go, what to look for, not in beautiful trees but in knotted, spiny trees. Before the tree is cut however his dad needs to look inside the tree, to see if it’s ready and able to be cut, sometimes it’s not and so they leave it alone…
The story tells us in great detail and beauty the trade of those who would seek out and sell the spice/oil that the people would call Myrrh, tears of a tree that would be used as a healing agent and, more importantly at funerals. The sap would pour from the trunk of these trees, the outside drying in the heat of the sun until there forms a crust around the oil and they’re ready to harvest.
During this particular harvest a large tear is collected, as large as an egg, the son takes it from the tree just as his father has shown him hundreds of times before, both son and father are pleased with the size of this beautiful tear.
Later in the week the father and son would visit the spice merchant and meet three Magi who are seeking some Myrrh to add to their collection of special gifts, some Frankincense, some Gold and together they purchase the son’s large tear. As the tear is being wrapped in cloth the Magi tells them that the gifts are for a special baby, three strange gifts for a baby the son thinks but he takes pride that his tear, that one large tear will be a part of the gift.
The authors note at the story’s conclusion ponders on the origin of the Magi but also tells us that the area of the Arabian Peninsula was, at that time a large centre for the collection of myrrh, the area is now known as Yemen.
Such a beautiful story, and an original story to tell alongside the Christmas stories that we might be a little too familiar with, one of my favourite tales by far with the most beautiful of illustrations.