HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Norwegian Troll Tales
Author: Joanne Asala
Illustrator: Theodor Kittelsen
Publisher: Penfield Books, 2005
Related website: http://www.penfieldbooks.com (publisher)
Language level: 2
(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: Teens and adults
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Asala, Joanne. Norwegian Troll Tales (published in 2005 by Penfield Books, 215 Brown St., Iowa City, IA 52245). I picked this book up at the Norway pavilion in the World Showcase of Epcot Center when we visited Disney World last year. According to the most ancient Norse myths, when the Earth was created from the fallen body of the slain giant Ymir, the maggots which emerged from his corpse were transformed by magic into the light elves and dark elves, and most of the trolls belong to the latter. There are many kinds of trolls in Norway, some ugly and others deceptively beautiful, but the vast majority are mean, skilled at thievery, and living only to cause harm or grief to others. When Christianity came to Norway, the trolls were thought to be fallen angels or the souls of pagans who had died and could not go to heaven so they now roamed the earth.
The folk tales about trolls were first collected and set down in the mid-1800s by Peter Christian Asbjornsen, a zoologist, and Jorgen Engebretsen Moe, a minister. Following the example of the Brothers Grimm, the two published their first volume, Norske Folkeeventyr, in 1852. Later editions, beginning in 1877, were illustrated by artists Erik Werenskiold and Theodor Kittelsen, the latter of whom went on to publish his own collection, A Book of Fairytales for Children. In 1994 Joanne Asala, who received her degree in medieval English literature from the University of Iowa and has edited several collections of Scandinavian, Celtic, and Eastern European folklore, published a collection of Norse troll stories called Trolls Remembering Norway, from which the tales in this book are taken.
A few of the stories are a little grotesque, with talk about cooking and eating people, and might not be appropriate for some younger or more sensitive children. There are occasional references to drinking alcoholic beverages, such as ale and brandy, and to tobacco juice. The euphemistic “heck” and the word “Lord” used as an exclamation are each found once. Many trolls are pictured as having magical powers and able to engage in witchcraft, so those who object to mention of such things in literature will not care for the book. However, those who like reading about mythology and folklore will enjoy the book, which includes stories by such well-known Norwegian writers as Asbjornsen, Moe, Kittelsen, Henrik Ibsen, and Jonas Lie. It is interesting to see the interplay between the trolls and “Christians,” and some have discerned moral lessons in the stories. The last section tells how trolls “emigrated” to the New World.