Arash is a slave drummer accompanying the Megistenes and other scholars on their journey to find the new king, whose star they have seen in the heavens. He does not understand their enthusiasm for this Jewish child, prophesied centuries before by one of their own, but each night he plays his drum for his master and dreams of earning his freedom.
When they reach Jerusalem, Arash is made an offer by King Herod himself: once they locate the child, return and tell him of this infant king of the Jews. To do as the king asks is to become a fugitive slave, but Herod promises Arash’s freedom, and Arash agrees.
“A great Christmas story *and* a great historical story. You can tell the author meticulously researched the culture and time period, weaving a rich backdrop of a setting and cross-referencing ancient places and events to work plausibly into the plot.”
“This story is beautifully written, thought provoking, and extremely entertaining. The elaboration of such an ambiguous Biblical account is one of the most intriguing things I have ever read, and has left me inspired, sorrowed, and joyous at the characters’ findings, downfalls, and forgiveness. Entirely too amazing.”
CIR: What inspired this book?
VAB: A few years ago I started noticing a curious trend of Drummer Boy figures in Nativity sets. Had the carol become so prominent in our Christmas traditions that we were now including the recent and wholly fictional character in depictions of the scene? I was simultaneously a little weirded out and a little intrigued. I’d always liked “The Carol of the Drum”. It’s simple and got a decent message (“your best is your gift”) and anyway it’s catchy, pa-rum-pum-pum-pum. But it bothered me. I mean really, who plays a drum for a baby? So I began kicking around ideas for how it might have happened, a more historically plausible tale of the little drummer boy. The boy would be playing a more historically contemporary style of drum, in the first place. And there would have to be a reason this kid would be alone to be picked up by the wise men. And thus, a story. I had a fantastic time researching for this. This puts the wise men into a very plausible historical context, explaining not only who they probably were but giving some background to Herod’s apparent over-reaction. Why was all Jerusalem troubled at their appearance? And why would Herod resort to subterfuge and massacre instead of simply refusing them aid? While I love tradition as much as the next person, I’ve always had a very logical and fact-oriented take on these things, and setting this story in historical context was really gratifying.
CIR: What makes this book a great choice for the holiday season?
VAB: What’s better for Advent and Epiphany than a story about the Nativity?
CIR: What would you compare this book to?
VAB: Well, this is about the most presumptuous answer I could make – but it was compared by a colleague to Ben Hur, in that it follows a primary character near the life of Christ, affected by the life of Christ, without following or retelling the Bible story itself. I think it’s about anyone who wants to have hope. Sometimes people don’t even have hope, they just wish they could hope. And because God sees much further than we do, that hope can be found in quite unlikely places.
CIR: Tell us about the little drummer boy.
VAB: We don’t see much about where Arash has been, only that he was first sold away from his mother at the age of ten. He has a lot of worries in his life, being a young slave, but he also has a well-hidden sense of self – he plays an instrument which is primarily associated with women in this time and makes it his identity in a very patriarchal society. And while he hesitates to dream of freedom, lest he be disappointed, he does.
CIR: Is there any content that some readers might find questionable despite the overall “clean” feel of the book?
VAB: If you’ve read the original story, you know that it’s not a G-rated read all the way through. (Spoiler: Herod kills babies.) But I don’t think most readers would find the material itself too objectionable.
Learn more about Laura VanArendonk Baugh and her writing at www.LauraVanArendonkBaugh.com