I love reading retellings, especially when they introduce me to lesser known fairy tales, myths, and legends. One such book is East by Edith Pattou which was published by HMH Books for Young Readers in 2005. This retelling of the Scandinavian folktale “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” brings readers on a fantastic adventure which includes a traveler, a great white bear, trolls, and a mysterious enchantment.
Rose is a north-born child, which gives her a deep desire to travel the world and have grand adventures. But her life changes in an unexpected way when a great white bear invades her family’s cottage. He promises fortune and health to Rose’s family if she will come with him. She agrees.
“They journeyed far and the white bear said, ‘Are you afraid?’
“ ‘No,’ she replied. ‘I am not afraid.’ ”
As Rose lives in the white bear’s castle, she seeks to learn who he is, what she is supposed to do there, and whether he is the stranger she meets every night. But Rose’s curiosity comes with a price, and she soon finds herself traveling to the ends of the earth in order to save the white bear from the Troll Queen. If you love the fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast” or the Greek myth “Psyche and Eros,” then you will enjoy this book.
“All that mattered was to make things right. And I would do whatever it took, journey to wherever I must, to reach that goal.”
Book Group Questions
- Rose’s mother is very superstitious and believes that the fortune her family experiences is a result of the white bear. However, the rest of the family disagrees. What do you think of this? Are we ruled by fate?
- Compare East to the original folktale “East of the Sun and West of the Moon.” What are the similarities and the differences?
- How did Rose’s character change throughout the story?
- Find and discuss similarities between the Norwegian folktale “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” and the fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast” and the Greek myth “Psyche and Eros.”