But what are the positive values that redeem all this endless annoyance and expense? We have already mentioned that it is necessary, for certain observations, to have an animal that is not a prisoner. Apart from this, the animal that could escape and yet remains with me affords me undefinable pleasure, especially when it is affection for myself that has prompted it to stay.
(from King Solomon’s Ring, page 25)
King Solomon’s Ring by late Austrian scientist Konrad Z. Lorenz, translated from the German by Marjorie Kerr Wilson, is a book about animal behavior and communication and interactions between humans and animals. It was my book club’s November pick, and our thoughts were all over the place about it. The member who suggested it absolutely loved it, while a couple of members were bored by it, and the others thought it was only okay. (Check out Serena’s post for a more in-depth summary of our meeting.) It was first published in English in 1952.
The title references the ring King Solomon used to talk to animals, but Lorenz noted in the preface that he didn’t need a magic ring to communicate with them. The book focuses on such animals as aquarium fish, the jackdaw, and the water shrew, and Lorenz touched upon such things as how to create an aquarium, whether zoo animals should be pitied, keeping animals as pets, and animal weaponry.
I admit that I abandoned this book a little more than halfway through, but not because it was horribly boring. Although I enjoy nature and find animals fascinating, I don’t particularly care to read about them, at least not in depth. Even though I don’t belong to this book’s target audience, there were things I appreciated about it. Honestly, I was surprised by this book. I thought it would be dry and boring (and it was in some parts), but it also was somewhat entertaining. Lorenz’s humor makes up for the slow parts, and there were times that I laughed out loud, particularly when the neighbors caught him wearing a devil’s costume while he attempted to conceal his identity from the jackdaws he was marking with aluminum rings.
I especially enjoyed the chapter about fighting fish. Lorenz described them beautifully, from their passionate and graceful mating rituals to the tender way in which they care for their young. Lorenz succeeded in making me think differently about animals I’d dismissed as uninteresting, and he offers much food for thought when it comes to questions about animal intelligence. He certainly was a character, letting wild animals roam freely around his home but locking up his child to keep him safe from them. King Solomon’s Ring wasn’t my cup of tea, but if you like reading about animal behavior, this is a classic you’ll want to check out for sure.
Disclosure: King Solomon’s Ring is from my personal library.
© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.