Your kids know all about how Thor saves humanity on a daily basis with his mighty hammer, how his father, Odin, is wise, and how his sometimes-brother Loki is kind of a jerk.
That’s just one little page in the epic monster-and-magic filled world of Nordic Mythology. Why not use the Avengers and Thor hype to get kids into these stories of ancient awesomeness? Myths are a great way for young ones to develop a life-long appreciation of literature.
As kids delve deeper into the stories, they’ll begin to see where Marvel took some liberties with them. Loki is always a self-serving trickster, but is never mentioned as being Thor’s brother, for example. Left completely out of the Marvel stories is the mythically important and very cool story of Frejya, who rides a chariot pulled by cats and has a deal with Odin to split the spirits of the heroic dead with him 50/50. There are so many fantastic Norse stories that kids won’t know unless they hit the books.
For a book of Norse Myths fit for academic study that older kids would also be able to read, try The Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley-Holland. This comprehensive book of thirty two classic Norse myths is great to read aloud with kids, but also has in-depth background notes for scholarly parents. Along with the stories, the anthology contains contextual essays on Norse life and other scholarly access points like “The Literary Structure of Myths.”
If you’d like a book that elementary aged kids can tackle a little more easily on their own, Padraic Colum’s Nordic Gods and Heroes is an illustrated classic. Colum is a career folklorist, and brings the stories to life in an enchanting lyrical style. Willy Pogany’s illustrations help make the stories feel simultaneously timeless and full of life.
This book is also titled The Children of Odin, in case you’re taking a trip to the used bookstore and happen upon it. It’s been one of the more popular volumes of Nordic myths for nearly 100 years.
When I was ten, one of my favorite possessions was my D’aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths. I don’t think I’ve ever reread a book so many times in all my life. The pictures are huge and colorful, and the stories were fascinating. There’s something about reading ancient stories that stirs us. A lot has changed in the past thousand years, but the telling of a story isn’t one of them, and these are the ones our ancestors heard from their parents as they fell asleep, just like your kids do.
D’aulaires also has a beautiful Norse Mythology version, which is a reprint of the beloved out-of-print Norse Gods and Giants. The combination of epic stories and stunning illustrations will stay with kids all their lives.
From there, you can take your kids on a journey through the Thor comic canon, all the way up to the original Avengers series, the Avengers Vs. X-Men, and even his brief stint as a black ops agent in 2012’s Secret Avenger Volume 1 issue 26.
Thor: The Dark World will be in theaters on November 8th.