Friday, December 27, 2013

D'Aulaire's Book of Norse Myths by Ingri and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire (1967)

I think the D'Aulaire's are all about the illustrations.  In his preface to this new edition, Michael Chabon describes them as "Raphaelite friezes as cartooned by Popeye's Else Segar, at once grandiose and goofy..."  I don't think I could possibly describe them better.  I'm not a huge fan of the fuzzy quality, but some of them are quite beautiful.  I think if I'd read this in high school, with some of Mrs. Belton (my art teacher)'s art history fresh in my mind, I would have really liked them.  Having seen a multitude of illustrations since then, some of which I adore (Barbara McClintock), I think they are good but not (for me) great.  The writing ranges from quite good to hum-drum.  
I've never read their beloved Greek myths.  `

I liked their translation of Odin's proverbs.  To quote:  "They had manners, for Odin himself taught them how to behave...

"Your friend's friends shall be your friends; your friend's foes shall be your foes.  Tread down the path to your friend's house and don't let it grow over with the weeds.

"Always keep your door open to the tired traveler.  The man who comes to your house with shivering knees needs a place by the fire and dry clothes and warm food.  

"When you enter the house of a stranger, look into cupboards and dark corners to see if a foe might be hiding.  Then take the seat that is offered you, and listen more than you speak. For then not one will notice how little you know.

"Always have a bit to eat before going to a feast; a hungry man is not a bright speaker.

"It's an unwise man who sits awake worrying all night.  When morning comes he will be too tired to think and matters will be still more tangled...

"Men die, cattle die, you yourself must die one day.  There is only on thing that will not die - the name, good or bad, that you have made for yourself."

These are all from the Poetic Edda, the Hávamál.

D'Aulaires' Book of Norse MythsD'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths by Ingri d'Aulaire
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I wasn't a huge fan of this book; I had some trouble with the writing, which I thought ranged from quite good to humdrum.  The illustrations are really what make the book beautiful.  I know some people out there are huge fans of the D'Aulaire's, but I haven't found myself to be one of their fans.



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