Hi all and happy Monday! Today I’m talking about one of my favorite books from when I was a teenager: East by Edith Pattou. This book is on my Top 10 Favorite Books list because it’s been so influential in my interests and in my life, and even though I first read it when I was about 12, this book definitely stands the test of time.
Based on the Norwegian fairy tale, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, East is about a young girl named Rose living in Norway with her family, who has fallen on hard times and is becoming steadily poorer. Rose is adventurous and an explorer, and so when a talking white bear appears at her door, offering her family wealth if she goes with him, Rose agrees, and lives with him for almost a year, before failing to meet the requirements of a spell that would have freed the white bear, actually a cursed prince. Because Rose betrays the white bear, she goes after him when he’s taken away by a troll queen, and travels “east of the sun and west of the moon” to find and rescue him.
What I love about this book is Rose herself–she’s smart and loyal and passionate, and through her eyes, her adventure truly comes to life. This fairy tale echoes Beauty and the Beast, except the ending–which is rooted in Norse mythology. This year, I read Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, and then another book on Norse myths, and I re-read East and fell more in love with Norse mythology and stories. And I realized I’d never read the original East of the Sun and West of the Moon in its entirety, despite having read East half a dozen times. So I found a beautifully-illustrated edition online and am completely obsessed with it.
The story follows the same basic structure as the book I know: a young girl agrees to live with a white bear in exchange for wealth for her family. She lives with him for almost a year, before betraying him and failing to break the curse on him. She then travels on the backs of the four winds: east, west, north, and south, and finding him at the top of the world. The fairy tale was beautiful: straightforward, wonderfully illustrated, and made me realize how accurate and lovely the retelling is.
I’m a sucker for fairy tales, folk tales, mythology, and oral traditions: anything that shows the depth and history of a culture, and so I loved reading East and its original story. The book I bought also contains several other Norwegian fairy tales, so I can’t wait to dive into those, too! If you are also interested in myths and folk tales, definitely give these books a try. They’re truly amazing.