The idea of garden rooms, both inside and outside, has a thread which can be traced back to Early Asian Buddhist scriptures. Padmasambhava, after an exceptional lifetime and a long final journey, was said to have settled in the copper mountain. This scene is where he delivered the Tibetan Book of the Dead, one of the most iconic Buddhist literary works.
Paul Biegel in his book, The King of the Copper Mountains, tenderly lifts this legend and expands it into a castle of rooms. As Buddha would have encouraged, all life forms are valued in the copper mountain's castle and live harmoniously together. Drawn there by an ailing, ancient king, each visitor unimports one story to the king. He seems to benefit at heart by empathizing the emotions of each tale, which imputes a little more living time to him. Each visitor is encouraged to stay at the castle, each taking up residence in a room appropriate to their needs and personality: the squirrel in the crystal room under the geraniums, the sheep in the clover room, the lion in the tower room, the wolf , the duck, dragon … the list extends until the wonder doctor returns from his hunt for the herb which will cure the king's failing heart.
On first opening the garden room, “Everybody fought: 'Oooh!' The garden room had a glass roof, and such thousands of flowers deep inside that it almost hurt to look at them. 'Nobody is allowed to walk around in here … there are no paths and the flowers would get trampled on'; said the king, in true mastery of the interdependence of all things.
The longest story, buzzed and sung by ten bumble bees, culminates in the garden room of the castle. This room, I think, is where I would find myself most comfortable among the spotted orchids, lilies, stock and freesia. Sleeping among the flowers, the ten bees would have been irrevocably content.
The King of the Copper Mountain by Paul Beigel is published by Strident.