A collection of Norse myths describing the exploits of the Aesir gods and goddesses, beginning with the creation of the world and ending with the day of reckoning. The companion to D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths, a treasured part of so many children's libraries, has returned to print after more than twenty years. The Caldecott medal winning D'Aulaires once again captivate their young audience with this beautifully illustrated introduction to Norse legends, telling stories of Odin the all father, Thor the thunder god and the theft of his hammer, Loki the mischievous god of the Jotun Race, and Ragnarokk, the destiny of the gods. Children meet Bragi, the god of poetry, and the famous Valkyrie maidens protecting Odin's Valhalla, among other gods, goddesses, heroes, and giants. Textured illustrations throughout depict the wondrous other world of Norse folklore and its fantastical northern landscape. Includes color illustrations throughout.
Original publication date
Rating: 4* of five
Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire were a married couple of Euro-origin, he Swiss and she Norwegian, who came to the US in the 1920s to pursue fame and fortune. Edgar was an illustrator for books, magazines, and the like, while Ingri painted rich guys' portraits. Came the Depression, oh dearie me...everything got harder...so the two collaborated on writing and illustrating kids' books together. For forty-plus years, the couple turned out beautiful, beautiful books.
This book, published in 1967, was a gift from my dad to me. I haven't got a lot of fond memories of my parents, and oddly most of them center around books in one shape or another. This is no exception. Dad read the book to me, even though by 1967 I was reading on my own, and we both loved the experience. He's a hambone and a half, my dad, funny and quick and full of wordplay. This book launched him on trajectories of mythmashing that, had I known then what I know now, I'd've written down or memorized or tape-recorded or something. He was abso-bloody-lutely riotous doing Odin as a doddering old fuffertut and Thor as a lisping f*gg*t (my sides are already hurting remembering the way that made me laugh...still does...) and the Valkyries as whining misery-guts.
P.C. he was, and is, not.
The last time we spoke on the phone, before deafness and vascular dementia made it pointless to speak at all, I reminded Dad of this book. He laughed like he had when he was 40. He lit up as he did the voices again. It was a good last conversation to have with him, and it's all down to being a great big kid as he always was, and appreciating his kidliness left me feeling a lot less angry for his adult failings.
So this book holds my special and dear gratitude for being a bridge to a man I never loved, but always felt impatient with and annoyed by and hurt by. Books are magic, and myths are real, and don't ever, ever, ever forget that.
This is the kind of book children stumble upon in libraries and then obsessively devour for weeks. The myths are exciting and easily understandable, and the D'Aulaire's rough and colorful illustrations carve themselves indelibly into the memory. If you and/or your children have never seen this book, do yourselves a favor and get acquainted.
The whole fascinating pantheon of Norse Gods is vividly brought to life by the many colourul lithographs, from sly Loki, to austere Odin to an amusingly fierce rendition of Thor. The stories maintain the darkness and violence of the original myths, but are told in a simple, matter-of-fact prose style that renders them appropriate for younger readers. A series of tales relating Thors adventures among the Frost-Giants (or "Jotuns")are particularly amusing.
This edition also includes an introduction by Pulitzer Prize winning author Michael Chabon that helps give some background on the D'Aulaires and their achievement.
I recommend this book highly, as an introduction to the rich world of Norse mythology or simply as an entertaining read for imaginitive children.
The nine Norse worlds and their locations are shown in a map on the front endpaper. With a reader's companion, or glossary and explanation of names, at the end.
Illustrated in what might be pencil crayon (which, to the 10-year-old me, implied that I or my friends could draw something similar), this collection of Norse myths showed me the wonder and the tragedy at the heart of mythology.
The d'Aulaire retelling of the Norse myths is clear, kid-friendly and just the right length to keep their attention, but it does all of this without losing the underlying feeling and meaning behind these often harsh and bloody histories. The illustrations are wonderful, and complement the stories perfectly. They myths can be read individually, or in order like a novel, to tell the story of the Norse pantheon from its inception to its demise at Ragnarokk.
There is so much reference to Norse myth in our culture and our literature, it really gives kids (and let's be honest, adults as well) a head start to have some familiarity with the stories and the history. This book has sparked plenty of interesting discussion, and I know we'll end up reading and enjoying it again and again over the years.