Forty Days: Neima's Ark, Book OneStephanie Parent / History & Fiction
Neima’s Ark: Book One
Copyright © 2013 by Stephanie Parent
Image copyright © 2013 by Najla Qamber Designs
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, any place, events or occurrences, is strictly coincidental. The characters and story lines are created from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Many cultural traditions include a flood myth in which a deity or deities send a great flood to destroy the earth and all humankind; the biblical story of Noah and the Ark is one of the most famous of these stories. While the tale of Noah’s Ark is, at its heart, a metaphorical one, I have chosen to retell the story as realistically as possible.
Most biblical scholars agree that the flood would have taken place around 2300 BCE, during the Early Bronze Age. While there is less agreement about the location of Noah and his family prior to the flood, I have chosen to set the story in what is now Turkey—specifically, the region of Turkey known as Eastern Anatolia—for two reasons. First, according to the Bible, the Ark came to rest on the “mountains of Ararat,” which many scholars believe to refer to Mount Ararat, a dormant volcanic cone located in Eastern Anatolia. In addition, two of the rivers described in the Bible as flowing out of Eden, the Tigris and Euphrates, have their source in Eastern Anatolia. Therefore, it’s reasonable to assume that some of Adam and Eve’s descendants, including Noah, might have settled in the region.
In my story, both Noah and his son Shem are bronze smiths; as bronze tools were essential to the people’s livelihood during the Bronze Age, Noah and Shem’s profession would have earned them a powerful status in their village. Readers may also be interested to learn that early bronze smiths worked with an alloy of copper and arsenic rather than copper and tin, and over time, many smiths developed arsenic poisoning. Arsenic poisoning can cause both physical tremors like the ones Noah experiences in his hands, and mental confusion and delirium.
Readers might also wonder why Noah and his family don’t observe Jewish traditions such as honoring the Sabbath and following kosher dietary laws. Most religious scholars date the origin of Judaism to around 1800 BCE, when Abraham denounced the worship of idols; a more organized version of Judaism developed around 1300 BCE, when Moses received the Ten Commandments. My heroine Neima and the rest of her village, living around 2300 BCE, would most likely have practiced some form of multi-god and goddess worship. Archaeological excavations of Bronze Age Turkish sites such as Alacahӧyϋk have uncovered goddess figures and deer and bull figurines that may have represented deities. Noah’s conviction that only one God existed would probably have seemed strange and unseemly to Neima and her family. Overall, as I was most interested in the human relationships behind the flood story, I chose not to focus on Neima’s and the other villagers’ religious beliefs before the flood arrived.
Readers may also have questions about the animal species that are and aren’t present on the ark. Working on the assumption that Noah would have believed the animals he knew of to comprise all the species in the world—or at least the only ones he could reasonably get hold of—I chose to include only animals native to Turkey on the ark. As a result there are no African animals such as zebras, giraffes, hippos, rhinos, and monkeys on my version of the ark. A more well-traveled trader, like the one Neima befriends, might have seen the rhinoceroses and monkeys he describes to her in India or even Africa. And to answer the many horse, dog and cat-loving readers who might be wondering why those animals aren’t on the ark: while these animals may have been domesticated prior to or during the Bronze Age in various parts of the world, I could find no definitive evidence that they existed in Turkey around 2300 BCE, so I chose not to include them. Smaller wildcats such as the lynx, however, do appear on the ark in my novel.
While I’ve done my best to root my novel within a realistic historical framework, Neima’s Ark is ultimately a work of imagination. All errors are my own.
Noah and His Descendants