Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Sea of Trolls

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The Sea of Trolls

by Nancy Farmer

The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2004, 480 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2006, 480 pages

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The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was originally compiled on the orders of King Alfred the Great in approximately A.D. 890. It was subsequently maintained and added to by generations of anonymous scribes until the middle of the 12th Century. If you have any interest in British history it's worth skimming the version at Project Guttenberg (which is compiled from about 8 distinct versions of the Chronicle), if only to read the entries for such well known dates as 1066.

Some people believe that the nursery rhyme, 'Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water....' comes from a Norse legend about two boys (Hjuki and Bill) who were sent by their father to collect song-mead from Mimir's Well. On their way back, with a full bucket of mead, they were carried off by the moon god.

As an interesting aside, you may remember a few weeks ago that I recommended The Dreamwalker's Child by Steve Voake, and noted in his bio that he's the former headmaster of a school in the South of England nicknamed the Jack and Jill school because local lore says that the well in the school grounds is the one that Jack and Jill went to. It seems that like so many popular legends, more than one group lay claim to the story as, somehow, I don't think that the Norse legends about a well of knowledge in the land of giants had in mind a charming village in the South of England! Having said that, both sources might be wrong - as others contend that Jack and Jill is a reference to Charles I and his tax reforms, while others believe it to refer to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. For more about this see the "BookBrowse Says" linked from The Dreamwalker's Child.

Is there such a Chinese curse as "may you live in interesting times"? In a speech in South Africa in 1966, Robert F Kennedy said, 'There is a Chinese curse which says, 'May he live in interesting times'....Journalists picked up on the phrase and it has been re-quoted countless times since. Ironically it appears that there is no such Chinese curse. The closest Chinese variation is the proverb, "It's better to be a dog in a peaceful time than be a man in a chaotic period."

This article was originally published in February 2005, and has been updated for the May 2006 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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