Treasury of Norse Mythology: Stories of Intrigue, Trickery, Love and Revenge by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrations by Christina Balit, 192 pp, RL 4
With the recent movies from the Marvel Universe featuring Thor, along with Rick Riordan's new series Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard in which the titular character discovers he is the son of a Norse god (and why couldn't it have been Astrid Chase discovering she's the daughter of a Norse goddess, Rick?) Norse mythology is hot enough to melt a fjord right now. And, while the I love the D'Aulaires and their own collection of Norse mythology, it doesn't always grab the attention of readers. With Treasury of Norse Mythology: Stories of Intrigue, Trickery, Love and Revenge, children's book author Donna Jo Napoli brings the same wonderful storytelling skills to that she brought to the Treasury of Egyptian Mythology and the Treasury of Greek Mythology, all three of which are marvelously illustrated, with beautiful borders on every page, by Christina Balit.
Napoli's introduction is superb, providing insight into the nature of Norse mythology that will help young readers understand how and why it is different from Greek and Egyptian mythologies. She tells readers that the was rich tradition of storytelling by traveling poets in Scandanavia, especially during the long winter nights, along with a devotion to the Old Norse language despite the widespread use of Latin during the Middle Ages. Add to this the fierce weather and powerful forces of nature that exist in Scandinavia, along with the communal nature of the Norse gods who assembled for votes, reflecting the democratic society of Norway in which all men (not women or slaves) had a vote, and you being to understand why Thor is a comic book hero today.
Treasury of Norse Mythology: Stories of Intrigue, Trickery, Love and Revenge has back matter that includes a map of the ancient Norse world and a timeline of Norse history. There is also a cast of characters with the names and attributes of the deities, although no phonetic pronunciations, which I would have liked. I struggled with the consonant-filled names as I read. However, Napoli's introduction is followed by a note on Norse names that explains the Old Norse alphabet, the use of nominative case markers and her choice to anglicize the names. She also includes sites where readers can find more information about Old Norse as well as a video link that lets readers hear the language.
Another aspect of Treasury of Norse Mythology: Stories of Intrigue, Trickery, Love and Revenge that I especially like are the side notes that explain and add understanding to the stories in the book. The importance of the number nine in Norse mythology, the woes of beauty (women really don't fare well in Norse mythology...) and winter travel and more all get a paragraph or two and are fascinating. Napoli's afterword is fascinating and helped me make sense of the sometimes strange path of the stories. She notes the three main inconsistencies she encountered in the stories as she draws from various sources. Logical inconsistencies (like Loki's shape-shifting abilities not always coming into play) factual inconsistencies (like Odin starving for meat when he is supposed to live in wine alone) and inconsistencies of time. Interestingly, Napoli shares that she has found time inconsistencies in Greek and Egyptian myths as well, noting that this could be due to the many authors writing down the tales at different times. She ends on this interesting thought that reflects her knowledge and understanding of her subject matter, "Why can't time simply fold back on itself, especially in a world riddled with magic?"
Source: Review Copy