http://healthsavy.comhttp://www.montauk-monster.com/pharmacy

Until quite recently, the myths that a Western child would encounter for education or entertainment tended to be those of either Classical antiquity or the Bible. Perhaps it is this that gave Norse myth, with its tales of ice, ravens, wolves, boats made of fingernail-clippings, warrior maidens, dwarf craftsmen and treasure, including a cursed gold ring, its counter-cultural flavour.

Wagner’s Ring Cycle reforged some of this for opera, but Norse myths have probably had the biggest influence of all where children’s literature is concerned. In Britain, Roger Lancelyn Green’s Myths of the Norsemen, published in 1960 by Puffin, and in America Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire’s versions of the same published by Doubleday in 1967, revealed a mythology that stimulated a generation, among them future authors such as AS Byatt and Michael Chabon. From Tolkien to Rick Riordan, from Catherine Fisher to Cressida Cowell, its subversive tropes have permeated popular culture. Most recently, Francesca Simon’s The Monstrous Child used the myth of Hel, goddess of the Norse Underworld, to riff on disability within a dysfunctional family; George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (dramatized as A Game of Thrones) took its idea of a world ending in fire and ice from Ragnarok, and thanks to Marvel the Norse gods are familiar super-heroes in comics and movies.

An acclaimed author, poet and translator, Crossley-Holland has previously written the Penguin Book of Norse Myths, but this new book is for younger children of 8+. Like Lancelyn Green’s, his version is collected into a series of roughly sequential stories, beginning with the creation of the world and ending with the hope of rebirth after almost total annihilation. An adaptation of Snorri Sturlson’s 13th century prose Edda, it includes the framing narrative of a Swedish King, Gangleri, learning about the gods from three wise kings, which to a younger reader could be somewhat mystifying, but once over this preface, Crossley-Holland adds plenty of entertaining dialogue and vivid detail.

An acclaimed author, poet and translator, Crossley-Holland has previously written the Penguin Book of Norse Myths, but this new book is for younger children of 8+. Like Lancelyn Green’s, his version is collected into a series of roughly sequential stories, beginning with the creation of the world and ending with the hope of rebirth after almost total annihilation. An adaptation of Snorri Sturlson’s 13th century prose Edda, it includes the framing narrative of a Swedish King, Gangleri, learning about the gods from three wise kings, which to a younger reader could be somewhat mystifying, but once over this preface, Crossley-Holland adds plenty of entertaining dialogue and vivid detail.

A master-story-teller, Crossley-Hollan’s prose moves without effort from the formal and poetic to the informal and conversational, adding dynamism and detail to Snorri Sturlson’s Prose Edda. Take this scene, with its slow build-up of tension, when Thor goes fishing with the giant Hymir.

‘“Your turn,” said the giant. “Let’s see what you can catch.”

Thor prepared his tackle with great care. Hymir watched as he knotted a large hook to his thick line, and then jammed the head of the ox Heaven-Wrecker onto the hook.

“Yes,” said Thor. “A very tasty morsel!”

Something in the depths of the dark ocean thought so too. It smelt the bait. It gaped and let go of its own tail. Then it started to slighter over rock and sand along the sea-bottom, and to rise.

Salt water slapped against the bow of the boat; it kicked up and smacked Thor in the face. All around them, the flint-grey ocean grew more and more agitated.

The thunder-god saw his line straighten, he felt it give a violent jerk, and at once tried to haul it in.

”No,” yelled Hymir. “Cut the line! Cut the line!”….

Thor stood up. He threw off his disguise as a lad from Midgard. He bent his knees, he braced his thighs, his forearms and shoulders, and pulled the monster right up under the keel.

Then the thunder god saw it – the head of the Midgard Serpent with the huge barbed hook stuck in the roof if its mouth.’

There are jokes, arguments, boasts and unforgettable images, from a hall in the kingdom of the dead with “plates and knives and spoons on the black tabletops, all made of glistening jet”, to the goddess Sif’s hair regrowing once it is manufactured out of gold and silver by dwarves. Yet even Thor cannot beat old age, disguised as a giant’s foster-mother, and the gods will wither and die without the golden apples of youth. Beautiful Balder, best of all, is murdered by a tender sprig of mistletoe, the one thing that his mother Frigg has failed to swear not to harm him, once Loki has sharpened it and guided Balder’s blind brother Hod to fling it as a deadly dart. Each story is short enough to read before bedtime but long enough to contain drama, wonders and yet another triumph for the gods. Until, that is, discord brings about Ragnarok.

It is the humour, moral ambiguity and the inescapable impetus towards tragedy that makes Norse myth so unusual. There is an obsession with tricking an enemy into doing your own work, and with capture and humiliation. Odin loses an eye for wisdom, Tyr sacrifices his right hand in order to bind the wolf Fenrir, and ultimately all the major gods die when flood and fire, monsters and chaos will overwhelm armies of the living and the dead. Rebirth is promised, with a few surviving minor gods and a mortal man and woman hiding in the World Tree, but it’s over-shadowed by a vision of almost total annihilation. In an age when we have discovered how to destroy our own planet through anger, malice and greed, it’s no wonder these resonate.

To this, Jeffrey Alan Love’s pictures add a monumental grandeur. Chris Riddell’s elegant illustrations for Neil Gaiman’s version emphasised the stories’ beauty and mischief; the d’Aulaires gave them an appealingly colourful naïvety; Brian Wildsmith conveyed character and emotion through a delicate web of pen and ink in the Lancelyn Green version. By contrast, Love’s craggy black silhouettes stamp a graphic power, mystery and dynamism on every page. All the gods are instantly recognisable, from Thor with his crude hammer to Loki, whose curling head-piece seems part jester’s cap and part grasshopper’s antennae as he crouches, leaps and persuades. The only irritant is that the female characters are mostly depicted as pretty profiles with torrents of hair.

The tales will always terrify and entrance the young. Strength, courage, loyalty and cunning are admired; compassion, truthfulness, fairness and mercy do not exist. These are, in other words, qualities that a modern parent may not altogether wish to inculcate in their child. They are, however, exactly what many children most enjoy reading about.