Reading guide for The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer

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The Sea of Trolls

by Nancy Farmer

The Sea of Trolls
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2004, 480 pages
    May 2006, 480 pages

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Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

About The Book

In A.D. 793, eleven-year-old Jack leaves his family farm to become an apprentice to the Bard, a druid from Ireland, who is assigned to his Saxon village. At first, he is unsure of his duties, and is puzzled when the Bard experiences a nightmare that Jack later learns foreshadows a rollicking and dangerous adventure-quest with the Northmen, led by Ivar the Boneless. Jack and his little sister, Lucy, are snatched by the berserkers and enslaved by Olaf One-Brow and his shipmate, Thorgil. Accompanied by a crow called Bold Heart, the two children encounter a sea of characters: humans and animals, trolls and half-trolls. There are surprises around every corner, and just when doom seems imminent, there is a bit of humor to lighten the suspense. Steeped in Norse mythology and Saxon history, The story brings Jack and Lucy full circle, but with a surprise ending.

Pre-Reading Activity

Ask students to research the unique elements in Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology and share their findings in class. What are the significant differences? List the most common figures and distinctive characteristics of the Norse myths. Tell students to keep these in mind as they read The Sea of Trolls.

  1. Good vs. evil is a common theme in fantasy novels. Discuss the good and evil forces in The Sea of Trolls.

  2. Describe Jack's family. Contrast Jack's relationship with his mother to his relationship with his father. Lucy, Jack's younger sister, appears to be very spoiled. Why does Jack's father allow her to live in a fantasy world? How does her fantasy world protect her when she encounters Queen Frith?

  3. Giles Crookleg is very religious. How does he convey his religion to his children? Discuss how his religion is in conflict with his wife's practice of magic. Jack learns from his mother how to talk to bees and how to soothe frightened animals with song. What type of magic does he learn from the Bard? What does the Bard mean when he tells Jack "Real magic is dangerous"?

  4. The Bard, a druid from Ireland, is also known as Dragon Tongue. How does he acquire this name? What is the role of the Bard to the village people? Describe Jack's relationship with the Bard. Why does the Bard choose Jack to be his apprentice? Why doesn't Giles Crookleg want his son to go with the Bard? What is Jack's mother's opinion of the Bard? Discuss what Jack learns during his apprenticeship.

  5. The Bard advises Jack, "You should look intelligent even when you aren't." How does this advice serve Jack as he travels on his quest?

  6. Explain the Bard's nightmares. How do his nightmares foreshadow Jack's journey and encounter with the evil forces?

  7. How does the Bard protect the village people from the Jotuns? The Bard tells Jack, "Only a very special kind of warrior can overcome them." Describe the qualities of this kind of warrior. How does listening to the Bard's stories about the Jotuns help Jack see his father differently?

  8. Why does the Bard give Jack the rune of protection? How does the Bard's gift leave him vulnerable to the evil forces? At one point, Jack almost gives the rune to Lucy. Explain why he changes his mind. Why does Jack give the rune to Thorgil?

  9. The Bard tells Jack, "You see, lad, most people live like birds in a cage. It makes them feel safe. The world's a frightening place, full of glory and wonder and danger." Describe the "glory, wonder and danger" that Jack and Lucy face. What do they learn about the world by the end of the novel? How does the Bard's statement to Jack apply to the world we live in, and the way we live our lives?

  10. The Bard teaches Jack about fear, pain, power, magic, and anger. How does the Bard's warning of Ivar the Boneless and Queen Frith leave Jack "dizzy with fear"? At what point does Jack experience the most pain and anger? How does his magic make him feel powerful? What important lesson does he learn about power?

  11. Discuss the significance of Mimir's Well.

Research & Activities

  • Giles Crookleg can't read, but he has memorized stories from the monks of the Holy Isle. Write and illustrate a story that Giles might have told his children.

  • When Olaf relates Thorgil's story, Jack thinks that it would make a good poem. Write the poem, and give it a happier ending to please Jack.

  • Jack's mother fears that Lucy can't tell the difference between fact and fantasy. Research the Vikings. Write a factual and a fanciful story about the Vikings. Share the stories in class. Which type of story creates the most interest?

  • There are good physical descriptions of the characters, both human and animal. Make an illustrated chart of the novel's characters.

  • Identify the most humorous scenes in the book. In small groups, select a scene to perform as a one-act play. Create appropriate costumes.

  • Four of the days of the week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday) are named for Scandinavian gods. Research these days of the week and find out which gods the names represent. Pick one of these days and write or retell the myth that explains the name.

  • The birth of Norse mythology was pre-Christianity. Research the story of the Norse creation and write a short paper that draws a parallel between this story and the creation story taught in your religion.

This reading group guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Prepared by Pat Scales, Director of Library Services, SC Governor's School for Arts and Humanities, Greenville.

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Simon Pulse. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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