HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Tales of Ancient Egypt
Author: Roger Lancelyn Green
Illustrator: Heather Copley
Publisher: Puffin, republished in 2011
Related website: www.penguin.com/youngreaders (publisher)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 8 and up
Rating: 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Green, Roger Lancelyn. Tales of Ancient Egypt (published in 1967 by The Bodley Head Ltd.; republished in 1970 by Puffin Books, a division of The Penguin Group USA Inc., 375 Hudson St., New York City, NY 10014). Egypt is one of the oldest literary cultures on earth, dating from 3200 B.C. when Menes united Upper and Lower Egypt. The tales in this book are divided into three sections. “Tales of the Gods” tell myths about ancient Egyptian deities such as Amen-Ra, Isis, Osiris, Thoth, Horus, Khnemu, and others. “Tales of Magic” relate legends about semi-historical figures in ancient Egypt like Seneferu, Khufu, Rameses the Great, and Bata. And “Tales of Adventure” contain other stories that the ancient Egyptians recorded. These tales are taken from the hieroglyphics carved on temples and tombs and the later papyri written after Demotic script superseded the old hieroglyphs. There are a few references to drinking wine and beer, but there is also a mention of Joseph and the Israelites in the prologue implying that the author considered them genuine historical entities. A time chart of Egyptian history places the different tales into their historical context, and there are several pages of facts about ancient Egyptian culture and beliefs. The book would make an excellent complement to a homeschool study of ancient Egypt.
Roger Gilbert Lancelyn Green (1918–1987), born in Norwich, England, was a British biographer, children’s writer, and Oxford academic who formed part of the Inklings literary discussion group along with C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. He had studied under Lewis at Merton College, Oxford, and remained close to Lewis until the latter’s death in 1963. In fact, when Lewis started writing his famous children’s fantasy books in the late 1940s, it was Green who encouraged him to publish it and suggested that they should be called The Chronicles of Narnia. Green became known primarily for his writings for children, particularly his retellings of the myths of Greece in Tales of the Greek Heroes (1958), The Tale of Troy (1958), and Tales the Muses Told: Ancient Greek Myths (1965); and The Tale of Thebes (1977); Norse mythology in The Saga of Asgard, later renamed Myths of the Norsemen (1960); the Arthurian legends in King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table (1953); the stories of Robin Hood in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1956); and even Tales from Shakespeare (1965). His works of original fiction include The Luck of Troy (1961), set during the Trojan War, and The Land of the Lord High Tiger (1958), a fantasy that has been compared to the Narnia books.
There are some in the homeschool movement who have strong objections to reading and studying mythology, claiming that it gives credence to heathen idolatry. While I respect their sincere convictions, I do not necessarily agree with their conclusions. The fact that many ancient cultures worshipped false gods and the stories that they told about those false gods are part of the history of our world, and there are many aspects of our Western culture which are drawn from them. I am convinced that we can read and study about the pagan idol gods from a purely historical standpoint without honoring them in any way or being in danger of believing in them, and can even see from learning about them how much superior the one true God who is revealed to us in the Bible truly is. I did not find Green’s Tales of Ancient Egypt to be awesome or inspiring, but I thought that they were interesting reading, and they do remind me how thankful I am that our universe is ruled over by a holy, just, reasonable, and orderly Lord rather than the hodge-podge of mystical, magical, mythical deities of ancient Egypt.