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No toy has held sway over my daughter’s imagination like her pastel My Little Ponies. At 5 1/2, in transition from little kid to big kid, she’s reading on her own and looking to take her pony obsession up a level. So I knew it was a done deal when, at a book sale, she picked up the second book in the Bella Sara Series,Valkrist’s Flight,  with a cover adorned with a shimmering, winged, white horse complete with a purple orchid tattoo on it’s flank. Total girl catnip.

The Bella Sarah series is intended for children aged 7-10; I knew it was something I should read with my 5.5-year-old and I was dreading it.  I expected ponies, princesses, gowns, girl rivalries, etc. I did not expect to meet the Valkyries in the course of the story. In Norse mythology, the Valkyries are handsome warrior maidens who accompany the father-god, Odin, into battle on winged horses. They are muses of war, inspiring courage and fury. When a hero falls on the battlefield, a Valkyrie sweeps his soul from his body, slings it across her saddle, and carries him to Valhalla, a hall in the gods’ home of Asgard where war heroes spend eternity eating barbecue, guzzling mead, and brawling.

Valkryies, Two Ways

I keep my beloved D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths locked and loaded for the time when my daughter is ready to read it, but she is not mature enough to handle most of the stories. . .  yet. Norse mythology is a particularly bloody, bellicose and blackly humorous body of narrative in which Balder, the God of light and beauty is murdered; Loki, the shape-shifter, changes into a mare and is impregnated by a stallion; Odin, the stern father-god, plucks out his eye and hangs himself from the tree of life to obtain wisdom; and oh yeah, the world ends. Few of these tales scream, “Read me to a little girl!”

However, the author of the Bella Sara series, Felicity Brown, has found a way to weave Norse mythology into modern coming-of-age stories about horse adoration. The first book in the series is populated with wolves descended from the great wolf monster of Norse Mythology, Fenrir. Book 2, Valkrist’s Flight, is the story of an orphan who discovers she is the descendant of a banished Valkyrie. I thought this was a really interesting premise and hoped to see the story of a modern Valkyrie develop in the tradition of Percy Jackson & The Olympians series, but it seems the Bella Sara books are a series born of playing cards. Therefore, each story is the story of a different of a different girl in love with a different horse; they are meant to be collected like pretty ponies. The mythology in this series is decorative, though the values of self reliance and compassion for animals that the books promote are admirable.

When you can’t find the book you want, create it. In ancient Norse culture, the Valkyries were used as a way to sweeten the horrors of war, as mythic propaganda. Sharing myths with kids gives a parent the chance to examine a culture’ values in relation to one’s own.  I’d like to tell my daughter a story in which a modern Valkyrie chooses to spare a life and reject and an endless cycle of war. Tonight that’s what I’ll do.