“I pushed into areas that I had not really been before. I went on a global romp. I must say that this was a grand adventure. It's a sweeping collection and I hope people enjoy it, but I have to say that it was really a lot of fun to do it!"
Most of us know the stories of Gilgamesh, Beowulf, and the Odyssey. Western culture tends to think of these Middle Eastern stories as representative of the origins of civilization. But that’s not quite accurate—there are stories from China and Japan and Australia that are far older. These stories, however, are rarely taught to children. Many of us grew up with some familiarity of Greek Myths and Norse Mythology. Far fewer of us spent hours reveling over Japanese Mythology or stories from Aboriginal Australia. And why not?
That’s why we’re so excited about the release of the long-awaited final installment of Heather Forest's “Tales from Around the World” trilogy: Ancient and Epic Tales From Around the World. we’re pretty giddy about the new release, especially because this book of epics is packed with multicultural folktales for kids from around the world.
Ancient and Epic Tales’ author, Heather Forest, worked especially hard to ensure that the collection includes as many of these lesser known epics as possible. Ancient and Epic Tales explores multicultural folktales for kids through pivotal episodes from classic stories like Gilgamesh, Beowulf, The Odyssey, Aesop, King Solomon, and Sir Gawain, but also stories from The Ramayana, Mwindo, The Kojiki, The Pyramid Texts, The Popol Vuh, and more. Forest’s self-described “global romp” journeys into the nooks and crannies of Northern Wei China, Japanese mythology, Mayan Mesoamerica, the Orinoco River Basin, Aboriginal Australia, Soninke West Africa, Nyango Central Africa, and more.
Heather Forest also spent a lot of time making sure that a book about large scale, ancient epics would feel accessible to kids. These are enormous, grandiose, elevated language stories that in their original language might feel a bit dry or slow moving to children. We don’t know about your kid, but when ours were little, they didn’t exactly love sitting still. Forest explained that she carefully curated and crafted the stories in Ancient and Epic Tales so that each story would “stand alone as a tell-able piece” while still providing “the flavor of the bigger pieces.” We think her effort makes it easier for children to enjoy the enormity and grandeur of the original epics in “bite-sized stories” that can be read in a single sitting. Since these fantastic stories evolved from the oral tradition, they're also tailor made for reading aloud. Heather Forest works as a professional storyteller, and you can definitely tell by the musicality and pacing of her stories.
We wanted to make this anthology of epics and folktales for kids easy to use in the classroom. Ancient and Epic Tales includes an appendix with notes on the origin of each story and the history of these multicultural epics. Heather Forest emphasized that she created the supplemental material “to help people understand where each story fits into our global, multicultural landscape, and also how it made its way into literature.” The Notes and Bibliography section provides valuable learning resources for teachers, librarians, parents, and storytellers who want to place these stories in a global context and make them more culturally meaningful for children.