Most people don’t know that many of the large animals we associate with Africa – such as lions, elephants, buffalo – lived further north around the Mediterranean Sea in the years before Christ. We know that Samson killed a lion, and so did David when he was a shepherd boy. There are certainly no lions in Israel today – except in the zoo – but they were there nearly 3000 years ago. We also know that the Romans used lions in the Colosseum, and that the early Christians were sometimes thrown to them. But did you know that the Romans had been using a variety of Exotic animals for entertainment purposes for hundreds of years before Christ – so much so that they managed to empty whole regions.
Larger animals like elephants, rhinos, lions, giraffes, buffaloes and others species would have been the first to be taken because they had the greatest entertainment value. As the empire spread, these creatures would have been cleared out one by one – much as is now happening in Africa today, because of human competition and the financial benefits of poaching. Since hippo’s have a reputation for being ferocious, unpredictable, and dangerous – even today, they kill more people that any other large animal in Africa – they would be a prime candidate for such events.
So, the idea that a hippopotamus might be used by the Romans is well within the limits of plausibility; especially when some of their arenas could be filled with water so as to give realistic depictions of important sea battles. With these facts in mind, the idea that a hippo might be in the stable in Bethlehem grew to become my new children's picture book.
'HIPPO IN THE STABLE' tells the adventure of Harriet who is captured by Roman soldiers but manages to escape with a friend while on the road to Jerusalem. She hides in a stable and witnesses the arrival of the wise men. After being warned in a dream about King Herod, everyone has to leave quickly. The wise men go home by another way, and Joseph takes his family to Egypt. Realizing that Egypt is where their home is, Harriet and her friend follow Jesus to get back home.
In these days when being a refugee is becoming more and more common, this often neglected aspect of the original Christmas story has a special relevance for our world. Jesus knows first hand what it means to be a displaced person who is on the run from persecution and oppression. The fact that Jesus went through that experience at all, is an indication that God was indeed doing something different and very much unexpected. We have a God who is not unaware or unsympathetic to our struggles.
'HIPPO IN THE STABLE' is beautifully illustrated picture book with a touch of humour and a message of hope for those who feel displaced in this world. The sequel, 'HIPPO IN THE GARDEN', takes us on a journey to forgiveness that unfolds for Hector (a grandson of Harriet), at the time of the first Easter 30 years later.
Both books are available at the Faith writer’s eBook store, and as a printed book on Amazon.
Offer to write me a review on Amazon, and get the sequel for free.