Tag Archives: Norse Mythology

Beowulfish

25 Oct

Yesterday, I taught my students the word euthanasia. I’d given them a new list of Latin and Greek stems and eu – meaning good – was on the list.

The eponymous Boneless Mercies of April Genevieve Tucholke’s new books are tired of their lot in life – giving a good death to people. In this loose retelling of Beowulf,   we get to learn the story behind each of the Mercies as they make their way towards the monster.

The book had a bit of a slow start for me, but it picked up about halfway through. Although there is a lot of death, it isn’t gory – that would have been a dealbreaker for me. The actual Beowulf  homage only takes up the last eighth of the book. The setting of the story is Norse -ish. The people are called the Vorse. Grenfell is Logafell. You get the picture, but it gives Tucholke to alter the plot to suit the story she wants to tell.

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Publisher’s Summary: Frey, Ovie, Juniper, and Runa are the Boneless Mercies—girls hired to kill quickly, quietly, and mercifully. But Frey is weary of the death trade and, having been raised on the heroic sagas of her people, dreams of a bigger life.

When she hears of an unstoppable monster ravaging a nearby town, Frey decides this is the Mercies’ one chance out. The fame and fortune of bringing down such a beast would ensure a new future for all the Mercies. In fact, her actions may change the story arc of women everywhere.

Dancing Around Yggdrasil

24 Apr

In case you don’t know, Yggdrasil is the ash tree that lies at the center of the Norse conception of the cosmos. It is also a pattern for a blanket  I’d like to knit some day.

It would be the perfect blanket to snuggle under while you immersed yourself in Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology.

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Publisher’s Summary: Introducing an instant classic—master storyteller Neil Gaiman presents a dazzling version of the great Norse myths.

Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales.

In Norse Mythology, Gaiman stays true to the myths in envisioning the major Norse pantheon: Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki—son of a giant—blood brother to Odin and a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator.

Gaiman fashions these primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. Once, when Thor’s hammer is stolen, Thor must disguise himself as a woman—difficult with his beard and huge appetite—to steal it back. More poignant is the tale in which the blood of Kvasir—the most sagacious of gods—is turned into a mead that infuses drinkers with poetry. The work culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and rebirth of a new time and people.

Through Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerge these gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to duping others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.

I listened to the  audiobook, narrated by the author. I love that fact that Neil Gaiman is the best reader of his own books and deigns to read them for us.

Before I began, I wondered how much  license Gaiman would take with the traditional tales, but I need not have worried. He retells the tales the way a long ago skald might have done it. He tells the tale in his own style, but sticks very close to his source material.

If you know any kids reading Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series, this would be an excellent source to understand all the deities, creatures and characters Magnus encounters in his adventures.

Snow Day!!!

7 Feb

I’m home today. School is closed. I’m on the sofa with a dog on each side of me and life is good. I’m thinking about some of my favorite books related to snow.

I have vague memories of a primary teacher reading Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day to my class.

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My favorite part was, and still is, making the snow angels. images

The book was first published in 1962, but I think it still works.

If you are housebound for a long time, you might have time for Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials  series:  The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass.

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For Neil Gaiman fans, there is Odd and the Frost Giants, which draws on Viking history and  Norse mythology.

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Matthew J. Kirby’s  Icefall also has a Viking setting. Trapped in a hidden fortress tucked between towering mountains and a frozen sea, Solveig–along with her brother the crown prince, their older sister, and an army of restless warriors–anxiously awaits news of her father’s victory at battle. But as winter stretches on, and the unending ice refuses to break, terrible acts of treachery soon make it clear that a traitor lurks in their midst. Solveig must also embark on a journey to find her own path.

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What are some of your favorite snow related books?

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