The Complete, Unabridged Edition by George Webbe Dasent
I have been wanting to write about this collection for some time. It is an old, classic collection of Scandinavian folk and fairy tales, on a par with that of the Brothers Grimm and originally published in 1888. Many of you have probably heard of it or even read it.
I’ve been wanting to say two things about it, the first of which is that the fairy tales I remember most vividly from my own childhood are those that I read to myself in 4th grade (that year, I did a lot of story reading while I was supposed to be doing math problems). It turns out that all of them came from an abridged version of East o’ the Sun. Most especially, I remember “Katie Woodencloak” and “Tatterhood,” but there are several others that live on in warm places in my heart also.
More importantly, and beyond simply wanting to share with you a lovely slice of my past, I want to tell you what I’ve discovered in dipping into this treasure house of stories: namely, that this collection more than any other I know is comprised of what are clearly post-Christian stories. There is an element of hardship and redemption that plays out in these tales in ways no other region’s tales have done. Mother Mary even appears in at least one of them (“The Lassie and Her Godmother”).
As such, this collection can hold a unique place in the context of the goals of Waldorf education. I think it can become a wonderful counterpoint during the 4th grade to presentation of the Norse Myths. This is a time when the Norse gods resemble very much the children: a bit more in possession of their (rather raucous) power than they are capable of self-control. The tumultuous tales of Loki and Baldur and Thor are just right for that age, and so we teach them. But were we to add some of the stories in East o’ the Sun, we would be giving our children pictures of what the coming out of this chaos and into the more fully human can look like, and Who it might be that accompanies us. It would allow the students to recapture some of their delight from first grade, but in an older and wiser form. I think it would enhance the developmental effect of the Norse myths and offer a heartfelt image of the paths we walk on earth.
I should add that because of the perspective and content of these tales, I recommend them for children 9 years and older, not for the younger ones.