'The Amazing Race' recap: Backslide of the Valkyries

There are two types of people in the world: People who grew up reading D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, and people who grew up reading D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths. Written and illustrated by an adorably Euro-perfect husband/wife team (he was a German with Swiss citizenship, she was a Norwegian who studied in France), both books blended freakish illustrations with child-friendly descriptions of old gods, superhuman heroes, and ancient magic. There is one major difference between the books, though. Greek mythology is full of colorfully eccentric characters, oversexed demi-gods, and videogame-ready visuals like winged horses and golden fleece. Norse mythology is similar…except for the minor fact that it is utterly and completely bananas insane.

In the cosmology of the Northmen, there are nine worlds circling around a cosmic tree, and the gods aren’t fun because their deaths have been foretold, and heroes bathe in the blood of murdered dragons. Greek myth has mysterious, sun-dappled islands. Norse myth has dark, snow-covered forests. (You could argue that Lord of the Rings is basically Norse myth with easier-to-pronounce names.) It’s for this reason that people who grew up reading the Book of Greek Myths are vagrant hedonists who enjoy the beach, and the people who grew up reading the Book of Norse Myths are manic pessimists who stay inside until winter comes.

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