Heroes, monsters, gods, and kings collide in 11 tales retold from ancient sources by a Scottish storyteller.
Battles and slaughter feature in most (though not all) of these exploits. Don opens with the tale of how Fafnir, transformed into a dragon by greed, is killed and closes with a riddle contest in which Odin himself is sent packing. In between, she tells of a warrior who accidently kills his shape-changing lady and protector; the death of the explorer Thorvald, brother of Leif Eiriksson, in what would come to be called North America; and a weary berserker who finds an abandoned baby and exchanges violence for “sleepless nights of teething, the strains of potty training and the many worries of a father.” As she explains in her excellent source notes, she leaves tedious family trees out of her retellings but adds elements to some yarns to suit modern young audiences—such as a captive polar bear who finds its way home from Denmark and how young Grettir the Strong rids a farm of an undead “zombie” by leaving its sliced-off head next to its “buttocks, to break the power of death.” In James’ cartoon illustrations the shaggy, smiling, light-skinned warriors and other human figures look far from ferocious, and even the monsters are decidedly nonthreatening.
An engaging collection, cast in modern but not anachronistic prose and equally suitable for reading aloud or alone. (Folk tales. 8-11)