Inanna: From the Myths of Ancient Sumer Hardcover – Sep 1 2003
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About the Author
Kim Echlin has been a documentary-maker, editor and teacher. Her adaptation of the Inanna stories is the result of looking for an ideal myth to tell to her own daughters. Echlin was drawn to this goddess from ancient Sumer because of her strength and sense of adventure, her daring and her final wisdom. Kim Echlin's publications include Inanna (Groundwood Books), Dagmar's Daughter (Viking), Elephant Winter (Viking) and The Disappeared (Penguin). She has been awarded the Torgi Award, and was nominated for the Chapters/Books in Canada First Novel Award, the National Magazine Award and the Scotiabank Giller Prize.
Linda Wolfsgruber is a world-renowned artist who has exhibited her work throughout Europe and in the United States and Japan. She has won many awards, including the Austrian Children's and Juvenile Book Award for Illustration (four times) and the Golden Apple of the Biennial of Illustration Bratislava, and she has been nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Award. Her striking illustrations appear in many books, including Inanna: From the Myths of Ancient Sumer, Stories from the Life of Jesus, Brunhilda and the Ring and A daisy is a daisy is a daisy. She lives in Vienna.
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For those unaware, according to most accounts in Greek mythology, a parallel heroine, Persephone, an innocent girl, was sucked into the underground by being raped. While down below, Persephone grew and matured by enduring hardships and trials, and returned to be in the world for half the year as a more enlightened person. More recently, some storytellers say that Persephone stumbled into hell while picking flowers, which serves as a "cleaned up" version suitable for children.
In contrast, the Sumerian Goddess Inanna chose to explore the darkness below in order expand her consciousness. Inanna was a young married deity who discovered guidance and uncovered wisdom during and after her intentional descent to the underworld. As an ancient goddess, Inanna embodied traits we admire today. She was emboldened to make choices about her destiny, explored and appreciated her sexuality, wisely used her intelligence for good, and willingly undertook adventures and self-discovery. She suffered, as all do, but was not a victim (in Persephone's case, a victim of an uncaring, or some would say cruel, father). Therefore, most contemporary women in the West can more readily identify with Inanna and/or see her as a symbol of positive female strength and empowerment.
I highly recommend Echlin's and Wolfsgruber's work for readers familiar with Sumer's Inanna, and for those who enjoy myths but don't yet know of Inanna's grace. Echlin effectively streamlines language from another time for today's reader without losing the myth's integrity. Wolfsgruber's illustrations corroborate Inanna's journey in fresh, vibrant picture-form, which gives us a glimpse of Ancient Sumer. Really splendid!
I bought this as a way to introduce my 5- and 7-year-old boys to Sumerian mythology (they had developed an interest in Ishtar/Inanna courtesy of Zeman's excellent Gilgamesh for kids), and I think this will work well, but will require photocopying the pages I want them to see, as some parts of the story are just not child-friendly at all, and my boys are independent enough readers that they'll pick it up and read everything. Thankfully, the parts that are too much for younger readers are mostly all on the same set of pages and the story will not suffer for leaving out those parts.
(FWIW, I think the non-child-friendly stuff would be fine for older children, say 12 or older, depending on the kid. The sexual content is tasteful, joyous, positive (mostly ... the bulk of the sexual content is between husband and wife, but there is a rape in the story); it's just too much for younger readers. For parents who believe in frank sex. ed., there's a lot here that is eminently discussable. This would NOT be appropriate for parents who believe in not teaching their children about sex.)
I also enjoyed the historical notes provided. If this is being read in the context of a study of ancient culture, there are notes about how the stories were found in bits and parts during excavations, and how some of the details are not necessarily clear because of how clay tablets were found in pieces rather than a whole story in a book.
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