D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths

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New York Review of Books, May 31, 2005 - Juvenile Fiction - 160 pages
17 Reviews
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The Caldecott medal-winning d'Aulaires once again captivate their young audience with this beautifully illustrated introduction to Norse legends, telling stories of Odin the All-father, Thor the Thunder-god and the theft of his hammer, Loki the mischievous god of the Jotun Race, and Ragnarokk, the destiny of the gods. Children meet Bragi, the god of poetry, and the famous Valkyrie maidens, among other gods, goddesses, heroes, and giants. Illustrations throughout depict the wondrous other world of Norse folklore and its fantastical Northern landscape.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - themulhern - LibraryThing

I, like many of the other reviewers, loved this book as a child. It's the softly countoured illustrations in the very large format, and all the wild adventures with the monster's and the fighting and ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - pjohanneson - LibraryThing

This is the book that shifted me from Greek mythology to Norse. I was probably about 10 or 12 at the time. Illustrated in what might be pencil crayon (which, to the 10-year-old me, implied that I or ... Read full review

Selected pages


The First Gods and Giants
The Creation of the World
The Creation of Man
Yggdrasil the World Tree
Asgard and the Aesir Gods
Odin the Allfather
Thor the Thundergod
Loki the God of the Jotun Race
Frigg and the Goddesses
Freyas Wonderful Necklace
Idunns Apples of Youth
Shade the Skigoddess
Frey and Gerd the Jotun Maiden
The Theft of Thorns Hammer
Thor and the Jotun Geirrod
Thor and the Jotun Utgardsloki

Sifs Golden Hair
Lokis Monstrous Brood
Balder the God of Light
Heimdall the Watchman of Asgard
Njord Frey and Freya
Bragi God of Poetry
Odins Eightlegged Steed
The Valkyries and Valhalla
Thor and the Jotun Rungnir
Thor and the Jotun Aegir
The Death of Balder
Lokis Punishment
Ragnarokk the Destiny of the Gods
A New World
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About the author (2005)

Ingri Mortenson and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire met at art school in Munich in 1921. Edgar’s father was a noted Italian portrait painter, his mother a Parisian. Ingri, the youngest of five children, traced her lineage back to the Viking kings.

The couple married in Norway, then moved to Paris. As Bohemian artists, they often talked about emigrating to America. “The enormous continent with all its possibilities and grandeur caught our imagination,” Edgar later recalled.

A small payment from a bus accident provided the means. Edgar sailed alone to New York where he earned enough by illustrating books to buy passage for his wife. Once there, Ingri painted portraits and hosted modest dinner parties. The head librarian of the New York Public Library’s juvenile department attended one of those. Why, she asked, didn’t they create picture books for children?

The d’Aulaires published their first children’s book in 1931. Next came three books steeped in the Scandinavian folklore of Ingri’s childhood. Then the couple turned their talents to the history of their new country. The result was a series of beautifully illustrated books about American heroes, one of which, Abraham Lincoln, won the d’Aulaires the American Library Association’s Caldecott Medal. Finally they turned to the realm of myths.

The d’Aulaires worked as a team on both art and text throughout their joint career. Originally, they used stone lithography for their illustrations. A single four-color illustration required four slabs of Bavarian limestone that weighed up to two hundred pounds apiece. The technique gave their illustrations an uncanny hand-drawn vibrancy. When, in the early 1960s, this process became too expensive, the d’Aulaires switched to acetate sheets which closely approximated the texture of lithographic stone.

In their nearly five-decade career, the d’Aulaires received high critical acclaim for their distinguished contributions to children’s literature. They were working on a new book when Ingri died in 1980 at the age of seventy-five. Edgar continued working until he died in 1985 at the age of eighty-six.

Michael Chabon is the author of several books, including The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Wonder Boys, The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Klay, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son and, most recently, Telegraph Avenue.

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