nonfiction

King Solomon's Ring (nonfiction)

King Solomon's Ring is a zoological book for the general audience, written by the Austrian scientist Konrad Lorenz in 1949. The first English-language edition appeared in 1952.

The book's title refers to the legendary Seal of Solomon, a ring that supposedly gave King Solomon the power to speak to animals. Lorenz claims, with only a little exaggeration, that he likewise achieved this feat of communication with several species. He accomplished this by raising them in and around his home and observing their behavior. King Solomon's Ring describes the methods of his investigation, and his resulting findings about animal psychology.

Lorenz's purely factual findings can fascinate the reader. He relates, for instance, the surprisingly refined social system of the common Eurasian jackdaw, the uncanny behavior and bodily features of the tiny water shrew, and the surprisingly complex interactions of seemingly dull and stupid aquarium fish. His unusual methods, without which he could not have made many of these observations, led him on many adventures and misadventures, and he generously interlards his narrative with anecdotes.

However, between these quaint and comical digressions, King Solomon's Ring raises pointed questions about animal psychology, human psychology, and the relationship between them. Lorenz dispels several common misconceptions about animals' intelligence, but at the same time he points out many of their similarities with humans. Some of these similarities are well-founded, but others are speculative extrapolations from the human mind (in fact, Lorenz has been criticized for excessive anthropomorphism).

In addition, King Solomon's Ring addresses the issue of keeping pets. As he might be expected to, considering how many animals he kept himself, Lorenz praises the benefits that a pet owner derives from his pet. However, he also describes the hazards that an animal can pose to the inhabitants and material contents of a house, and the ways in which a pet's captivity can make it miserable, and explains how to avoid each of these causes for discontent.

King Solomon's Ring has changed the way many people see animals. A few of the findings it presents have found their way into common knowledge since its publication, such as the phenomenon of imprinting. The first English language translation appeared in 1952. As of 2005, it has been printed at least six times in English, and is still being published.

References

  • Konrad Lorenz (1961) King Solomon's Ring Translated by Marjorie Kerr Wilson. Methuen, London. 202 pages. ISBN 0-416-53860-6

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