But reading those myths when I was seven, and again when I was seventeen, were two very different things. The d'Aulaires took great pains to avoid the word "mistress," even and especially when it was applicable. Zeus had a ridiculous number of "wives." Odin's seduction of Gunnlod, the mother of his son Bragi, god of bards, is hinted at but
|Odin and Gunnlod, Ingri and Edgar d'Aulaire|
|Loki, Ingri and Edgar d'Aulaire|
|Odin, Ingri and Edgar d'Aulaire|
whitewash out the incredible sexual tension between Odin and Loki. They're attracted to each other at first sight. They mingle their blood. They swear fidelity. Odin even offers Loki a lovely, patient goddess as his beard. (Poor Sigunn also winds up as the beard for Loki's other marriage to the ogress Angerboda, mother of Hel, Fenris, and the Midgard Serpent. My guess is, safe and loving didn't do much for Loki's libido.)
I was shocked when I first read a kids' version of Edith Hamilton and asked my parents what "out of wedlock" meant. "But I thought Zeus was married to all his wives," I said. My long-suffering mother gently made clear that this was a polite fiction. And one of the great building blocks of my imaginative life began to shift. Zeus was no longer a responsible if reckless husband. He was a cad, a seducer, a thoughtless pig who cared more about the kids he sired than the women who bore them, and about his own fun most of all. The king of the gods, came the awful thought, was a jerk. And in that case, why was he the king? Why should I root for such a careless user?
|The Abduction of Persephone, |
Ingri and Edgar d'Aulaire
|Freya, Ingri and Edgar d'Aulaire|
|The Wooing of Gerd, Ingri and Edgar d'Aulaire|
So in telling those stories, you have to bowdlerize. You have to leave out the worst of the gods in order to communicate the real wonder and excitement of their stories. Especially when writing for kids, who may be encountering them for the first time, the magic should come first. There's plenty of time later for kids to learn the shades of gray. If you're going to entrance them with the glory of myth, you'd better make it as entrancing as it can be.
|The Olympians, Ingri and Edgar d'Aulaire|