30 June 2008

Make new friends, but keep the old

As a child, one of my favorite books was D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths by Ingri and Edgar D'Aulaires. I checked it out from the library repeatedly, and read it over and over to myself, fascinated by a pantheon who had godlike powers, but no need for divine contemplation. These were active deities - like the Greek pantheon in that regard - but while proud, could also be foolish and very humanlike. My favorite was Loki, who unfortunately was repurposed to serve as the devil-analog by later Christian missionaries. But in the original tales, he is a trickster and a fixer, someone who can make a fool of a god and the others laugh, and then make up for the prank with creativity and generosity - often so that the person he fooled was left better off than before.

As a teen, I encountered The Hammer and the Horn in the bookstore, grabbed it up and read it up in a day - I was so happy to revisit my old friends in the Norse Pantheon. My favorite parts were the stories related by the main character's alter-ego, Sin Skolding. These took new twists on old legends, retelling the stories in ways that were consistent but oddly altered. As an example, Sin retells the well-known story of Loki's theft of Sif's golden hair and names another as the perpetrator - I'll hold off saying who as it would spoil the tale. I remember thereafter that I shifted through the shelves on every return visit, but I never found the expected sequels.

But very recently I did encounter two additional books in the series, when I had mistakenly thought that Vidar's tale was a one-hit wonder and had no conclusion. What a pleasant surprise - Seekers and the Sword (Vidar Trilogy #2) and The Fortress and the Fire (Vidar Trilogy #3) continue the story. I think, all in all, the first book was the best in the series, but the story was one I wanted to see finished and it was done elegantly.

The interspersed stories of Vidar's alter-ego, Sin Skolding, make this story a hit for me. The main storyline tale is well told and full of action, romance and pathos without degenerating into being a bodice-ripper. While not as deep or thought provoking as other available, similar fiction concerning the theme of gods-among-men, such as Gaiman's American Gods or Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber, this book offers a fun read, ample entertainment, and would not be ashamed to stand next to them on a bookshelf. It deserves consideration by their fans or others who grew up with the Norse myths as bedtime stories.


the booklady said...

I love D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths too! Just stumbled on your blog! Very nice!

cheers, booklady