Twice-retold tales

25th May 2001 at 01:00
The trade in retellings and the creation and recreation of myth goes on apace. H by Sybil Grafin Schonfeldt, illustrated by Iassen Ghiuselev (published by the J Paul Getty Museum, distributed by Windsor Books International pound;12.95) is a clear, poetic version of the classic Greek myth of Orpheus's journey from the forest to the Underworld and back again. Although the pictures, heavily influenced by a pre-Raphaelite style, are rather wooden and literal, the text is well worth reading.

The Star-Bearer: A Creation Myth from Ancient Egypt by Diane Hofmeyr, illustrated by Jude Daly (Frances Lincoln pound;10.99), is a sparkling story, which explains, according to ancient Egyptian beliefs, how day, night and the starry universe were first created. Geb, the god of earth, and Nut, the goddess of the sky are inseparable, clasping one another,sharing secrets, until they have to be forcibly separated. Geb is enraged and Nut is sad and lonely until Atum, the golden godchild of the lotus, comes up with a solution. Daly's superbly composed illustrations give new life to a magical tale.

Caught on a Train by Carlo Gebler (Mammoth pound;4.99) is an intriguing narrative, suitable for top juniors, created from the retelling of retellings. Indeed all three of the linked tales have been taken from WB Yeats's anthology Irish Fairy amp; Folk Tales, with another layer of wild embellishment added.

Archie, the kitchen boy on the Dublin to Achill railway, hears three stories of good and evil from the three mysterious gentlemen in the only occupied carriage, and must choose the best. Gebler's prose is electric: alive with wit in this irresistible celebration of blarney.


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