Why do so many children’s authors focus on mythology in their books for young readers? What is the fascination with gods and goddesses and their interactions with mortals?
In my new novel, Secrets of Valhalla, the main character Freddie Buzzard (Buzz) hasn’t got much time for mythology. To be honest, he thinks it’s a waste of time—and his distrust and distaste for mythology is one of the major barriers that lie between him and his father—a famous mythologist.
All that is going to change for Buzz when he finds Sunna, the Norse goddess of the sun, tied to a magical tree in the middle of Tangley woods. He’ll learn that mythology still has a lot to teach him and those around him.
I loved reading as a child and in particular I loved reading mythology. It started when I was about 10 and came across a battered collection of Greek Myths from Peter Bendrick Books.
It had beautifully detailed illustrations with creatures and deities that were like nothing I’d ever seen or read about. I was immediately hooked.
I quickly moved onto Egyptian, Celtic, Norse, African and Chinese mythology, gobbling up origin tales from far and wide. I think even as a child I understood that the different world mythologies were discussing big and difficult questions. The kind of questions that human beings have grappled with from the beginning of time and which children are grappling with earlier than we may think. Questions like: Who am I? Where did I come from? What is the universe? Is there anything else out there? Why am I here? How did it all begin?
Mythologies give children the opportunity to explore these questions through a colourful cast of often flawed and certainly larger than life characters. They provide stories that are full of peril and sometimes, but not always, a moral.
Myths, after all, are the original celebrity tabloid read. Every culture has a pantheon of mythic characters who are well known to those from that culture. Those characters’ lives, vendettas and passions are infinitely fascinating and the fact that these gods are more often than not family only makes things more interesting!
The battle between good and evil rages throughout the world myths and as a reader you are introduced to a realm of moral ambiguity where gods can be heroes, villains and something in-between depending on the story. As a child this is challenging and exciting stuff. As an adult it still is.