East of the Sun & West of the Moon

By Laszlo Gal

Written and illustrated by Canadian Laszlo Gal, East of the Sun & East of the Moon was one of my favorite stories as a child. Originally hailing from Norway, it is the story of a young woman being chosen as the bride of a polar bear, who will give her family wealth in exchange for her hand.

The heroine is one of my favorites. Loyal to her family, courageous enough to do what is necessary, and wise enough to listen to others. In the end, she rescues her husband and destroys the trolls.

This version of East of the Sun & West of the Moon has what I feel are all the symbolic motifs a true retelling of East of the Sun West of the Moon requires. A polar bear prince, the north wind, trolls, three helpers and three gifts to the heroine, and, of course, a strong and true heroine.

Suggested Ages: 4-9

Gal, L. (1993). East of the Sun & West of the Moon.McClelland & Stewart.

*****

We’re going to perform a small experiment in the next few posts. Fairy tales have been endlessly told and retold – of course, since otherwise, we wouldn’t know them. They were meant to be told. Most fairy tales are passed to us at a young age; many of us read them in children’s books. And as we grow older, we will encounter those books in retellings meant for older readers. Goodness knows how many variations of “Beauty and the Beast” are out there. But today we’re going to focus on a different story in four different incarnations spread throughout four different posts; the differences, the similarities, and, of course, review it for children.

The first version we’re going to review is the one I consider the true retelling of the myth. Why do I consider it the most faithful? Because it was the first one I ever read. For that reason, I will use it as my baseline.

Written and illustrated by Canadian Laszlo Gal, East of the Sun & East of the Moon was one of my favorite stories as a child. Originally hailing from Norway, it is the story of a young woman being chosen as the bride of a polar bear, who will give her family wealth in exchange for her hand. She rides on his back to his palace, where they live together. At night, he turns into a man, but she never looks upon his face. Feeling lonely, she visits her family, where her mother talks her into looking on her husbands face. She does, but accidentally wakes him, and he is taken by the trolls in exchange for her broken promise and it falls to her to help save him with the help of various wise and otherworldly figures.

Ingrid, as she is named in Gal’s version, is one of my favorite heroines. She’s loyal to her family, dedicated to her husband and righting the wrongs to him, courageous enough to do what is necessary, and wise enough to listen to the help and wisdom of others. In the end, she rescues her husband and destroys the trolls.

This version of East of the Sun & West of the Moon has what I feel are all the symbolic motifs a true retelling of East of the Sun West of the Moon requires. A polar bear prince, the north wind, trolls, three helpers and three gifts to the heroine, and, of course, a strong and true heroine. Like all fairy tales, it is short, and offers only a little repetition. This particular version, and most of Gal’s work, tends to be a bit text-heavy for a picture book, and so is targeted to slightly audiences, around 7+. This does not in any way take away from his ability to expertly tell a story, or his amazing illustrations. Like Pinkney’s, his artwork is distinctive and beautiful, as light and ethereal as Pinkney’s are dark and earthy. I highly recommend his work to anyone who enjoys reading Eastern-European folktales to their children.

Over the next three posts, I shall explore other adaptions of this tale, mostly in comparison of Gal’s, but also against each other. For a history of East of the Sun & West of the Moon that I do not have room to include here, please visit this Wikipedia article.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Merlyn Stanberry
    Oct 16, 2011 @ 01:11:55

    Whats up! I simply wish to give a huge thumbs up for the good information you’ve gotten here on this post. I can be coming back to your blog for extra soon.

    Reply

  2. Trackback: East of the Sun & West of the Moon (Part 3) « dearassalt
  3. Trackback: East of the Sun & West of the Moon (Part 2) « dearassalt
  4. Trackback: East of the Sun & West of the Moon (Part 4) « dearassalt

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