Tanglewood Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne
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A sequel to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s earlier volume of Greek mythology interpreted and retold for young people, Tanglewood Tales includes more legends and tales of ancient heroes and monsters. In his earlier book, A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys, Hawthorne had designed the book to be a book within a book. A young college student keeps a group of young children entertained by retelling Greek myths in a way in which they can easily understand.
Nathaniel Hawthorne also wrote a brief introduction to Tanglewood Tales, entitled The Wayside. Eustace Bright, the student in the earlier book, makes an appearance here too and reveals that he has compiled more such stories for his young audience.
Tanglewood Tales contains six famous stories. The first one is Theseus and the Minotaur, in which the Greek hero Theseus slays the terrible monster who lives in a Labyrinth below the palace of King Minos. He is helped by Princess Ariadne, who falls in love with the young stranger who comes to slay the fabled creature and deliver the citizens of the land from the evil beast.
The second story describes one of the incidents from the Odyssey. The Palace of Circe recounts the legend of the loathsome monster, Circe, who turns all people into beasts. How the brave Ulysses saves his men and other unfortunate people whom Circe has enslaved is told in an entertaining and exciting manner.
The legend of Prosperina, her mother Ceres the Earth Goddess and the dark ruler of the Underworld, Vulcan is told in the third story, The Pomegranate Seeds. The story of Antaeus, son of Poseidon and Gaia is retold in The Pygmies. This is a little known story, set in Africa and is based on both Greek and Berber legends.
The Dragon’s Teeth is a delightful retelling of the myth of Europa and her brothers. One of the brothers, Cadmus, who is the only one of the family left behind after Zeus abducts Europa, slays a monstrous dragon who preys upon the surrounding villages. The goddess Athena advises Cadmus to sow the dragon’s teeth in the ground and a race of fine warriors springs up, and thus is built the city of Cadmeia the capital of Thebes.
The last story is one of the most famous in Greek mythology: Jason and The Golden Fleece.
Tanglewood Tales is indeed a charming volume to be read in tandem with the Wonder-book and it will perhaps spur young readers to delve more into the immortal Greek myths and legends of yore.
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