Illustrated by Bee Willey
Finished: Apr. 11, 2008
First Published: 1996
When the Spanish came to South America, they looked around them at the people, but saw only the gold bands on their arms, the silver rings in their ears.
Reason for Reading: Once Upon a Time Challenge, Read aloud to my 7yo.
Comments: This is the second of a three book set by the award-winning British author and storyteller, Geraldine McCaughrean. It is a wonderful collection of myths and legends from all around the world. Many nations are covered and while there are a few well-known tales retold, the majority are lesser known and not found in many collections of this sort. The writing and language is beautiful and told in a story-teller voice. One feels as if one can hear the storyteller's voice as they read and these are wonderful to read aloud. The tales are in their true forms and not watered down or made politically correct. This is what I look for in these tales but I did occasionally find the need to edit on the fly as reading aloud. I've noted these in my descriptions below. Bee Willey's illustrations are full of luscious colours and evoke a sense of fantasy. They are a perfect accompaniment to the text. Highly recommended for the enthusiast of folklore.
My review for the first book in the series can be found here. We will be reading the third and final book later this year.
#1. The Silver-Miners (A legend from Bolivia) - This is a tale of when the Spanish were ravaging mountains of silver. The mountain Parichata uses his powers to protect himself and his people who are being used as slaves.
#2. The Men in the Moon (A tale from Kenya) - Murilay's mother nags him so much he wishes he lived on the moon. When suddenly his bench lifts off and flies him there. He teaches the cold moon residents about fire, then marries seven princesses and becomes a wealthy resident but eventually misses his family. Ds loved this one.
#3. Dream Journey (A Maori myth) - A great chief has a dream that sends him on a long journey where he eventually learns about the fishing net and brings this new discovery to his people.
#4. Roland and Horn Olivant (A legend from France) - This is a tale of Charlemagne and his knights. A very bloody battle ensues between Roland and his men, acting as rearguard, and the Saracens. This is a tragedy with a moral advising against pride. Neither of us enjoyed this one. Too much battle and not enough story.
#5. A Question of Life and Death (A Greek myth) - The famous tale of the Sphinx and how Oedipus answered the riddle and destroyed her. I love Greek myths and the 7yo is quickly becoming a big fan too.
#6. The Harp of Dagda (an Irish myth) - Dagda, the giant god, has his treasured harp stolen by the winged Fomorians. He visits them and uses the harps powers to get it back. This was very good we both enjoyed it very much, it also explains how the faeries of Ireland came to be.
#7. A Nest and a Web (a legend from the Middle East) - This is a tale of Muhammad and how God kept Muhammad and his wife safe from the idol-makers who were chasing them.
#8. Ash (a Native American myth of the Tlingit tribe) - Ash was a lazy, good for nothing who did nothing but laze in front of the fire all day long. However, one day he demonstrates great strength. It seems that there is magic in Ash. He defends the town against a giant, stops the trees from attacking the village and the mountains from crushing the village, Eventually Ash is called to the sea where his destiny awaits him. This one was a bit longer than the others and our favourite of the week.
#9. The Tower of Babel (A Hebrew myth) - This, of course, is the bible story that tells why we have many different languages in the world.
#10. Saint Christopher (A European legend) - The story of the patron saint of travellers.
#11. God Moves Away (A myth from Togo) - The only story that was unfamiliar to us this week. God used to live in the sky just above people's heads but after getting poked in the eye one time too many he takes his stuff and moves up into the heavens. The woman who poked him tries to build a tower of pots so she can apologize.
#12. Wilhelm Tell (A Swiss legend) - We read the Buff's retelling of this legend earlier this year so this was fun to read another retelling and see if it differed. It was pretty much the same.
#13. A Heart of Stone (A Greek myth) - The King, Pygmalion, hates women. Venus, the Goddess of Love, is tired of listening to Pygmalion complain all the time so she decides to teach him a lesson. Pygmalion carves a statue of a beautiful woman and falls desperately in love with it and eventually goes to Venus' temple to ask for deliverance from his aching heart.
#14. Babushka (a Russian legend) - Babushka is an old woman whose only child died long ago. The three wise men rest at her house on their way to visit the Christ Child and encourage her to come also. She decides to come but first must find a present, so she carefully fixes and cleans the old toys of her son. She sets off on her journey to Bethlehem but she has missed the baby and continues on looking for him. Thirty years later, still searching for the baby she sees a man on a crucifix and stops to give her condolences to the weeping mother. From this time on Babushka continues her wanderings but now she leaves a toy, from her basket which never empties, in the home of Christian children and once a year on the birthday of Christ the toys become visible. I love this story!
#15. The Pig Goes Courting (a Hawaiian myth) - Kamapua'a is a pig-like god and he has become infatuated with Pele, the fire goddess. She has quite the temper, a nasty disposition and does not return the feelings. An all out war ensues between them until Kamapua'a calls upon the water elements to put out her fire. Another fun one. I don't think I've ever read any Hawaiian myths before.
#16. Can Krishna Die? (an Indian legend) - the story of how men's foolishness caused their downfall and ended the earthly life of Krishna.
#17. The Lighthouse on the Lake (a Japanese legend) - a woman visits the lightkeeper each night for quite some time. He starts to thinking he may marry her but then he starts to wonder why she would visit him like this and becomes certain that she is a demon whose true nature is to destroy him. Ultimately he causes her downfall and in the end, his own. This story had sexual undertones that I had to edit out while reading to the 7yo. The woman does more than just 'visit' the man. The underlying theme is that of a woman causing her own downfall by giving away her virtue recklessly. The myth also is an explanation of the Japanese hurricanes.
#18. King Arthur Gives Back His Sword (a Celtic legend) - the last tale of King Arthur. Arthur is near death after he has slain Mordred in battle. He asks Bedivere to carry him to the lake where he wants to return Excalibur to the Lady in the Lake.
#19. A Bloodthirsty Tale (A myth from Ancient Egypt) - The god Re, is disappointed in his people so he decides to punish them. He takes his third eye from his forehead and it became the goddess Hathor. Usually gentle and kind, Hathor has become full of Re's fury and she takes a sword and starts killing all the people, young and old. When Re calls to her that her work is done she does not want to quit. She has a blood-thirst and vows to continue until she has wiped out the human race. Re commands his priests to make a thick concoction of beer that looks like blood. Hathor drinks and drinks until she falls asleep and when she wakes up she remembers nothing. I really enjoyed this one. I have a fondness for Egyptian myths.
#20. Rip Van Winkle (An American legend) - This is a retelling which I'm sure everyone knows the plot. At it's most basic, it is the story of a man who is married to a nagging wife who is more than happy to have found that he has slept for fifty years and that she has died in the meantime. When he returns he is the talk of the town. This retelling focuses mostly on the meeting with dwarfs. While Washington Irving made this tale famous it had been around for much longer as a legend of the Catskill Mountains.
#21. The Raven and the Moon (An Alaskan Merit myth) - A man and his daughter have the moon hidden away as one of their treasures. This tale tells how Raven tricked them into giving it to him and how it eventually ends up in the sky.
#22. Sir Patrick Spens (a Scottish legend) - This was a very short one. Based on a true story in the 1200s of a ship that carries the king's daughter to Norway for her marriage but sinks on the return voyage.
#23. The Saltcellar (A Scandinavian myth) - We really enjoyed this last tale that tells how the sea became salty. Two very strong Swedish ladies grind a magical mill that will grind whatever is asked for. After being rescued from the King of Denmark by salt merchants they are forced to grind salt. So they continue to grind until they have sunk the ship with salt. And to this day the mill continues to grind salt.