Thursday, August 4, 2016

D'Aulaires' Book of Norwegian Folktales (University of Minnesota Press)

Ingri and Edgar d'Aulaire are, in my opinion, the most underrated children's authors/illustrators of all time. They are best known for their books of mythology, both Greek and Norse, but they also brought us their Book of Trolls, Leif the Lucky, Children of the Northlights, and Ola, which doesn't even cover their American Folktales. Today, I am lucky enough to present to you their Book of Norwegian Folktales.

D'Aulaires' Book of Norwegian Folktales was originally published in 1938 with the title East of the Sun and West of the Moon. It begins with an introduction on Norway, and the couple's decision to translate a selection of the 100+ tales. They quickly realized that there were already near perfect translations available so they relied on an old Norwegian edition, Dasent's translation, and their own translation to perfect the stories. That was they "easy" part. The hard part was narrowing it down their selection and only including 21 tales in this book.

The most recognizable story in this book is "The Three Bushy-Billy Goats." This tells the tale of the troll bridge and the three goats crossing his bridge. I think nearly every child knows that story, but I wager that 99.9% of them didn't know it was Norwegian in origin. One of the shorter, cuter tales told why the bear had a short tail. In short, it was because, he tried to go ice-fishing with his tail, but he kept it in there too long and it was frozen off. The tale I most enjoyed was the one that shared the original name of this collection, "East of the Sun and West of the Moon." It told of a prince who had been cursed and was turned into a bear. He found a poor girl to be his bride, but she messed things up, so he had to leave her and marry someone else. This devastated the girl, so she vowed to come find him, and where she had to look for him was east of the sun and west of the moon.

This book was classic d'Aulaires and had that familiar Norwegian feel, like other books they have authored/translated. This was most visible in the ending of some tales, "Snip, snap, snout, and now this tale is out!" The stories were easy to read and very fascinating, because it exposes the reader to a culture they might not understand, but also might not get a chance to experience otherwise. The only thing that was lacking in this book was a lot of illustrations, like you are used to with their other books. They explain this in the introduction, but it doesn't make it any less disappointing. That complain aside, I would still highly recommend this book and even further recommend pairing it with some of the titles I listed above.

This book was provided to me for free by University of Minnesota Press in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!