World-wide myths, legends meet teen-friendly narrative

Your favorite superhero was 10 feet tall.

Larger than life. Super-sized, right there on the movie screen and that’s just how you like it. There’s nothing better than watching the adventures of take-charge super-powered beings in a film — except, as in “Gods and Heroes” by Korwin Briggs, when there’s a whole entire book about them.

Ever since humans walked the earth, they’ve told fables of battles and bravery. They’ve explained birth and death with stories, and they used tales to interpret things they didn’t quite understand. The problem, says Korwin Briggs, is that writing didn’t exist in ancient times, so most legends were passed down orally. That means that, in their original form, many are forever lost.

Of course, many still exist, and this book is full of those tales from around the world.

Take, for example, the story of Anansi the Spider, which appears to have come from Ghana and spread around the world. Anansi “is lazy, dishonest, and very full of himself,” but his tales usually have him coming out a winner in the end, having tricked other creatures and gods.

Another trickster comes from the American Southwest: Coyote, who fools people and giants. In mythology, monsters and kings can be tricksters, too.

Many mythical figures came from the Greeks and Romans, including Artemis, the twin sister of Apollo. Because her mother labored so long to give birth to Apollo, Artemis vowed to help girls and women; she’s seen as a nurturer, but she’s also a shy, reclusive huntress who avoids men and crowds. Oh, and she loves dogs.

You may also be familiar with the Greek and Roman hero named Heracles. He’s very strong, smart, and brave. And he’s also called Hercules.

Isis was a goddess long before her name was in the news; and in Africa , it’s Kintu’s wife’s fault that people die. The Norse god Loki “is a jerk.” The Polynesian god Maui made the day longer, Poseidon was father to a number of non-human creatures, Pele is a volcano, and as for Gaia, “We live on her.”

No matter what weekend it is or where your family will be, your teen can’t get enough of the adventures of his favorite superhero. So why not give him a few new (old) ones to follow? Give him “Gods and Heroes.”

Gone are the pages of stuffiness in the study of mythology. Gone are the high-brow tales low on excitement. Instead, after warning readers of occasional violence and possible cruelty, author Korwin Briggs gives world-wide myths and legends a teen-friendly, modern relevance, both in narrative and illustration. These are tales that make TV drama seem tame: teens will read about battle, blood, and vengeance, but they’ll also read about sunshine and kindness. Briggs then draws parallels from ancient mythology to modern legends and even to the Bible.

While a reading-proficient 8-year-old could probably tackle this book, its better audience is probably a little older. If they can handle the grown-up themes in “Gods and Heroes,” then this book could be big.

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