Tuesday, August 5, 2008

D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths


D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths
Ingri and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire
Doubleday, 1962


Finally got around to cracking this little ditty open only to be faced with a hilarious little illustration on the cover page. It is my sister's name in totally 80s scrawl with a self-penned cartoon of a hipster-type Johnny Nemo cartoon with the words underneath... "GREEKS RULE. NO MYTHS!" Not sure what exactly that means, but if you knew my sister, it would make you giggle. She is a woman who always signs her name with a period at the end. Go figure.

That said, this was her all time favorite book as a kid. I've mentioned it before in a previous post, but these stories are totally habit forming. God, what a great book. I can't even tell you how many copies of it I hand-sold back in my bookseller days, but when someone came in asking for a gift for a child, I always, always, ALWAYS put this book in their hand.

It tells the individual tales of all the major and minor gods and all their rascal-ish offspring in a way that makes Peyton Place seem like Romper Room. Back in my day ~ for a little girl ~ Aphrodite, Athena, Persephone, and the Nine Muses were way more romantic, violent, and intriguing than the Disney princesses could ever hope to be. Persephone for one (the daughter of Demeter the goddess of harvest) who was so beguiling that Hades the lord of the dead couldn't help but fall in love with her. So what do you do when you are ruler of all things dank and dead and you want to impress a lady? Why you open up the gates of hell and suck her down, of course.

One day as Persephone ran about in the meadow gathering flowers, she strayed away from her mother and the attending nymphs. Suddenly, the ground split open and up from the yawning crevice came a dark chariot drawn by black horses. At the reins stood grim Hades. He seized the terrified girl, turned his horses, and plunged back into the ground. A herd of pigs rooting in the meadow tumbled into the cleft, and Persephone's cries for help died out as the ground closed again as suddenly as it opened.

What follows is the tale of why there are winters and summers... a tale so fascinating and titillating, that I can't imagine any girl who loves this story not growing up to be attracted (if only secretly) to bad boys. Plus, what little girl wouldn't kill for a group of "attending nymphs" to plat her hair and tell her she is the most beautiful maiden in all the kingdom? All the illustrations are this glorious (no surprise there), and little boys will freak for the stories of the manly Heracles and the conflict between Cronus and Zeus to take the throne as king of everything ~ ruler of the heavens and earth.

Do your kids and yourself a favor and get them to Olympus ASAP. These stories own the themes from which all other fiction is based. Timeless tales for sure.

Also by:
The Terrible Troll Bird
Ola
D'Aulaire's Book of Animals
Benjamin Franklin
Don't Count Your Chicks

10 comments:

Kate said...

I LOVED this book growing up. One of my greatest "should have kept it" regrets was losing track of it over the years.

Esme Raji Codell said...

One of the best books in the world!

ALF said...

Very cool!

Bonnie said...

one of my all time favorite books and completely responsible for me becoming a Classics major in college.

Jinja said...

That and the Norse myths book were amazing. I'm impressed you were able to get 'The Terrible Troll Bird'!

Tara said...

I love the d'Aulaires!!!!!!

The d'Aulaires' childrens books said...

For more background and information please check out the new and growing Facebook page dedicated to the d'Aulaires and their work.

http://www.facebook.com/dAulairesChildrensBooks

The d'Aulaires' childrens books said...

Please see the new Facebook page dedicated to the d'Aulaires for continuing new content.

The d'Aulaires' childrens books said...

Visit the new and growing Facebook page dedicated to the d'Aulaires and their works for some interesting background material.

Anonymous said...

Is this the book that Tyler gives to his sister in remember me?

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