D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths

The girls have been very into the D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths, which Sarah got out of the library in hardback duplicate.  A little greedy, maybe, but the girls were so excited about it initially that they each wanted a copy to read in bed.  We’ve read through the whole thing and now at bedtime they’re taking turns each selecting a favorite story or two to read again.  Great, gruesome stuff.  Last night I read about Cronus devouring each of his first five children (Poseidon, Hades, Hera, Demeter and Hestia) out of fear they would overthrow him.  You can see the little babies glowing in his stomach — the drawings are wonderful, rather light and playful, sometimes with a touch of William Blake Songs of Innocence about them.  Cronus’s wife Rhea then tricks him and gives him a rock swaddled in baby blankets, and so the infant Zeus survives.  I think the girls relate to the Greek gods in their playfulness, tricks and plots, and perhaps also the occasional rage and fury.  They especially love the story of the baby Hermes tricking his big brother Apollo by stealing Apollo’s cows.  We all found the image of Apollo chasing him, while Hermes calls out “I’m just an innocent little babe!” or some such, hilarious.  They also especially liked the illustration of Pandora releasing the demons & imps from her box.  Very relatable for a 6-year-old.

I remember reading this book as a kid as well.  The D’Aulaires do a great job of making the stories accessible and appropriate for childen without bowdlerizing to excess.

I wonder how many Classicists were turned on to Greek mythology from it?

17 thoughts on “D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths”

  1. Just want you to know that I cldn’t be happier. You love classic mythology ! It has been my passion since I was as
    young as you. At the university I was lucky to find a professor, Douglas Bush, who shared this love of Gk myth and had written a couple of bks about it. I studied with Bush for four yrs, till he went off to Harvard. Incidentally today is the b’day of a composer who made an opera out of the story of Orpheus and Euridyce. And that’s another way to regard the sad fate that
    befalls not just the people in the myths but all of us: great
    art may come of it.

  2. Mine was the Edith Hamilton version–no pictures, sadly, but written by a woman scholar, which seemed important to me even when I was in the 6th grade. Also–go Rhea!

  3. Charming! now you have to get them to read D’Aulaire’s Norse Myths.

    When we gave the book to our kids years ago, I was amazed to realize how many of those illustrations had been burned into my memory and were just waiting to come to life again.

    1. I remember being obsessed with this book when we stuied Greek myths in 4th Grade (so I would have been just a little older than the girls). There was another one with more “modern” and detailed drawings that I also loved, but even my 9-year old self understood that this one had more depth.

  4. I’ve often wondered why I was so obsessed with this book as a kid (seeing as, like most little kids, I wasn’t exactly an uncorruptitble paragon of good taste in those years). I think obviously the drawings and the sheer narrative appeal of the stories had a lot to do with it. But I wonder I had an appreciation of that fact that the stories weren’t pandering to their young audience in the way that most kids’ books do. There’s something wonderfully unselfconscious about those stories and the telling of them that I actually think I responded to at that age.

  5. Count me in as one of those obsessed with this book as a child. The craggy drawings of the monsters haunt my imagination to this day. I was especially obsessed with the little creatures released from Pandora’s jar.

    The other book that dominated my childhood was H.A. Rey’s “Stars”, which I still love to this day.

  6. I grew up with both the Greek Myths and the Norse Myths (and for when they’re a little older, the fantastic East of the Sun and West of the Moon), and they definitely influenced my turn to medievalia and classics.

  7. So weird. I loved this book as a child. We have been trolling different libraries across downtown Manhattan since our neighborhood branch has hours convenient only for the librarian’s union, apparently. I mean what kind of person would want to use the library on the WEEKEND? So on Saturdays off we go to Manhattan… anyway, I’ve been keeping an eye out for this book in every library we visit, with no luck so far (I could only remember what it looked like, not the name…). Now it’s occurring to me that perhaps I shouldn’t be looking in the children’s section… I’m really looking forward to reading this to the girls.

  8. Thanks for comments, Emily and Patrick. What I most like about doing the blog is having old friends pop up with comments out of the blue. Emily — that’s crazy that Brooklyn libraries are not open on weekends. The Greek book is available on Amazon for a reasonable amount, btw. Last night I was Hades, Sarah was Persephone, and Sarah’s mother (visiting) was Demeter. (C&I were Skeleton and Kitty-cat.) As I just commented on Facebook, someone guessed that I was Associate Provost of the Underworld (the costume involved an academic gown). Maybe I should’ve gone for a Troll…

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