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The Conference of the Birds, is an epic poem by the master poet Farid ud-Din Attar in the 12th century.  The rough outline of the begining of the story is that a group of birds, each of whom represents a particular human characteristic or flaw.  They are all lead by the mystical Hoopoe, a bird associated with the wisdom of Solomon, in search of the legendary Simorgh, their king.  Before setting off, however, each of the birds forwards an individual complaint to explain why he cannot undertake the arduous journey to find the Simorgh.  The rest is such a wonderful tale, which becomes an allegory for the souls journey to find God, that I will leave the rest for the interested reader.  For more, see the video animation below:

 

Conference with a Chicken

Conference with a Chicken

…Next time:  “Owly Conferences”

This comic is meant to bring new life to this old classic.  It puts a modern setting to the complaint of the Finch and the Hoopoe’s response.  The finch is symbolic of cowardice, and, in the story, moans that he would never be capable of Simorgh, and would surely “turn to ashes” in the presence of the Simorgh.  Instead, the Finch hopes to find peace without the struggle of the path.  In characteristic fashion, the Hoopoe brings the hypocrisy of the finch to light, warning him that his negligence will not save him from his fate without the Simorgh.

This particular strip shows one office worker hailing his co-worker, Finchman.  Like his namesake, Finchman is too tied up in his own cowardice to face the opportunity facing him.  Instead, he comes up with multiple excuses to avoid such trials.  In the end, his wise friend, has to jolt him into action.  Many different symbols are employed in this strip to attach it to the original story.

The unnamed, wise worker is seen with a bird perched on his shoulder, has a halo hovering above his head, and has distinct white hair, and even eyes. Beyond making him a striking figure, these all associate him with the prophet Solomon, a sufi favorite, who was supposedly capable of conversing in the language of birds.  In this piece, he acts the part of the Hoopoe, his alleged companion, and even quotes the last lines of the poem (in Darbandi and Davis’ translation) to provoke the sympathetic reader int action.

Finchman’s association with his counterpart primarily comes from his name and the color of his shirt, yellow. Though he does have a sort of unkempt air, that suggests a certain lack of ambition.  In this strip, we see his modern-day bird counterpart emerge when he reveals his true character.  This avian companion becomes more and more prominent, until we see the character giving in to the advice he was given.  In the end, we see both representative birds speaking along with their counterparts, then leaving on their journey, likely to the Conference or to the Simorgh himself.

 

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