According to the Biblical story, four young men of Jewish nobility are taken from Judah to train as advisers in the Babylonian court of Nebuchadnezzar II. The men are Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. All four are given Chaldean names: Daniel becomes Belteshazzar; Hananiah becomes Shadrach; Mishael becomes Meshach; and Azariah becomes Abednego. (As the names relate to Babylonian gods, the Jewish men likely find the new monikers insulting.)
Daniel impresses Nebuchadnezzar with his ability to interpret dreams and gains influence at court. Using his rising status, Daniel convinces the king to give favorable positions to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. The men struggle to retain their Jewish identities and reamin loyal to God. Daniel leads them in refusing to eat the meat served at Nebuchadnezzar's table. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah refuse to bow before an idol. Enraged, Nebuchadnezzar orders them burned alive in a furnace, but an angel preserves them from harm amid the flames.
Stott's story draws on the Biblical narrative but deviates from it to tell a new story. For instance, the three are condemned for a hunger strike rather than for not worshiping an idol. Stott also narrates the story from Azariah's perspective and plays up the distinctions between Daniel and the other three captives.
We are not from this country. We were taken from our parents. The king calls us by names that aren't ours. Privately, we use our true names, but can no longer remember to whom each belongs. I believe I am Azariah. My brothers and I do not share parents, yet we are the only family we have. Daniel is different; he knows he is Daniel.Azariah and his two brothers laugh among themselves at what their Chaldean masters try to teach them. They insult Nebuchadnezzar at table, refusing to eat any of the food and accusing him of being a werewolf. Daniel, in contrast, finds a compromise, avoiding the meat but filling his plate with vegetables. Day after day, Daniel implores the three to eat something and allow the king to save face, but the three refuse to give in to the king or follow Daniel's advice. The three see themselves as powerless but gain a sense of power from refusing the king's demands. They also see themselves as weak compared to Daniel, whose great understanding allows him to appease. They decide to "show Daniel escape in place of survival." The power of Stott's story comes from her portrayal of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, who we find to be simultaneously defiant and heroic as well as stubborn and obtuse.
To learn more about Romie Stott and her work, check out her website http://romiesays.tumblr.com/. “Three Young Men” is the second story in King David and the Spiders from Mars. To win a paperback or ebook copy of the anthology, enter the May Giveaway: King David and the Spiders from Mars.