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The Return of the Light: Twelve Tales from Around the World for the Winter Solstice
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The Return of the Light: Twelve Tales from Around the World for the Winter Solstice

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  207 ratings  ·  39 reviews

The winter solstice, the day the "sun stands still," marks the longest night and the shortest day of the year (it occurs either on December 20 or 21). Celebrations honoring the winter solstice as a moment of transition and renewal date back thousands of years and occur among many peoples on every continent. Now The Re
Paperback, 178 pages
Published November 1st 2000 by Da Capo Press (first published October 12th 2000)
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3.79  · 
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 ·  207 ratings  ·  39 reviews

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Feb 22, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: folk-fairy-tales
They say that spring will come again
No one knows exactly when.
Still the sun's a long lost friend
On the longest night of the year.

The problem with themed story collections is repetitiveness, and that's really the only thing wrong here. Every tale seems to involve so-and-so stealing/losing the sun/moon/light in general and someone else needing to go get it back again. Still, the author does a wonderful job of collecting folk tales from all over the place and all but one were new to me.

There is al
Jan 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Myths shape us, and in this modern world many of us tend to forget that. These twelve myths are simply retold by the author, are rich in diversity and come from a range of countries. They explain where some of our traditional holiday customs come from, from pagan rituals to the unfortunately dominant Christianity.
Many of these stories were interesting and many I have never heard since they were gathered from around the world. Inuit, Chinese, Italian, and even God mythology. What I really liked about this book is the brief intro to each tale and it's people as well as the rites and games at the end of the book. There were even a few Christmas carols in the back.
Aug 15, 2018 rated it liked it
It was interesting reading the story told by the ancients to explain the phenomena of increasing and decreasing daylight hours as a result of the rotation and tilting of the planet earth as it rounds the Sun. It must have been frightening as these cultures experienced diminishing light and encouraging when the daylight hours began to lengthen. Year after year but until recent years, maybe the last 200 or 300 did human's begin to understand and explain the Solstices and equinoxes.
Jan 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
An interesting collection of folk tales filled with additional anthro/literary information. It was a perfect read for the darkest days of winter. The prose style varies from story to story, but on occasion rises to a zenith such as, "rinds of lemons and oranges scattering like commas and parentheses onto pages of rolled out flour." Lovely.
Lee Leslie
Dec 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
We read one story a night from this book aloud to the children leading up to the Winter Solstice. It's a fun collection, but there is some overlap and other solstice mythology I was surprised not to find included (where are the Holly and Oak Kings?).
Dec 03, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: kids-books
This was a disappointment. The title implies that the stories will be about the difference between summer and winter solstice. They are, instead, just about the difference between night and day.
Nov 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is a wonderful collection of stories from around the world celebrating the winter solstice and Christmas. I love this book and will keep it forever.
Dec 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-2017
I like mythology, but these tales were just not holding my attention :(
Mar 30, 2010 rated it liked it
In The Return of the Light Carolyn McVickar Edwards assembles twelve legends, folktales and fairy tales told about the “return of light” that occurs at the winter solstice. I wanted to know more about the roots of the older traditions surrounding the Winter Solstice before it was taken over by the Church. I didn’t really find that, but I did find several different takes from around the world on just what happens during the solstice, the shortest day of the year, and their explanations for why th ...more
Lisa M.
Nov 20, 2013 rated it liked it
First, this book is misleading. As far as the title and the back of the book are concerned, these twelve myths are myths about, well, the winter solstice. But, it turns out if you believe the title or back of a book, you are pretty stupid! I am not very well versed in the winter solstice, but I believe I am familiar with the myths/traditions associated with it. Only one of these stories was a "winter solstice" story to me - and that was La Befana and the Royal Child of Light. (Yes, this Italian ...more
Lavoie Lianne (The Towering Pile)
This review was originally posted on my book blog, The Towering Pile.

The Return of the Light is a collection of stories, most of them involving someone stealing the Sun, and then other characters getting it back. The idea behind these stories is that at the Winter Solstice, the Sun has moved away as far as it's going to, and appears to stay far away, sitting still, causing people to worry that it might not come back.

I normally don't like book introductions very much, for whatever reason. But the
Dec 30, 2014 rated it really liked it

My mom and I have a tradition of going to a local Yoga Solstice class. It is always the most calming and wonderful experience so I thought I would do a little legend and lore reading on the subject. This slim volume was my first pick and I really enjoyed all the tales from so many cultures, all honoring the return of the sun. The cover artwork is beautiful and reminds me of the class, where they have sprigs of greenery and oranges with cloves to take home, and remember throughout the year, honor
Jan 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Lovely book with 12 myths from around the world concerning the birth and/or return of the sun. I'd never read any of them before, and even ones that appeared familiar - such as how the rooster came by his red crown and the tale of La Befana - were versions that were new to me. The author split the tales into three sections - Theft, Surrender, and Grace - which referred to how the light was gained. I did feel some of them didn't quite fit the theme, hence four stars instead of five, but overall I ...more
Dec 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010, winter
This book was worth the interlibrary loan wait for the introduction alone. It begins with a great historical and anthropological explanation of solstice-time celebrations. The author has a masterful command of effective and dare I say effervescent vocabulary and manages to be insightful, informative, and succinct. What follows is 12 tales themed around Light. The introductory pieces before each section and each story were usually as good if not better than the stories themselves. The sections of ...more
Sally Michelle
Dec 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My husband worked last night, and I, without him near me, could not sleep. So I read this entire book. this book is simple in construct. It does not dive into traditions that developed out of the myths surrounding the Winter Solstice, but it does cover the original myths very quickly.

Fun read overall and a great reference book as well as a book to read throughout the years. I read the Norse myth to my daughters today and plan on reading another this evening.
Rachel Kopel
Nov 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
Darn, looking for the book I have on the list I have found two more that look interesting. Maybe next year??
Nov 28, I am starting this as part of my Advent/Solstice reading. No idea where the time will come from, but it has been moved to the actual couch cushion.

It was nice to read these stories, one every few nights, and I did get all the way through it. I really liked it and am going to look for more books by the same author.

Dec 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Edwards celebrates the Winter Solstice with twelve stories about light from twelve different cultural traditions. She emphasizes the parallels in ancient myth and celebration that have been folded into current religious ceremony and belief, dividing the gift of light into acquisition by theft, by surrender, or through grace.

The introduction to each story also contains background information on the peoples that tell the tale.
Dec 09, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, kids
I really enjoyed the selected stories that Edwards chose for the book, but I found many of the translations to be a bit forced. Quite honestly it felt like someone had combed through the book and used a thesaurus to change the words in every other sentence to make it sound more complex then it needed to be. The beauty of most of these stories is their simplicity. There is no reason why a two page story needed to be stretched out to 4-5 pages.
Dec 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a great collection of light related stories. Unlike many western dominated collections, it spans cultures worldwide. All the stories are just the right length for bedtime; I read the kids one story a night till Solstice and they loved it! Every night they would jump up with excitement wanting to know where the story was from this time.
Feb 27, 2010 rated it liked it
This book is a compilation of various traditional culture's stories passed on through many generations regarding the winter solstice. The book starts with a more detailed history of the winter solstice and how it related to the pagans, Mithraists and Christians and changes in the calendar systems that moved it to Dec 21st.
Jan 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
I've been having a lot of trouble finding new stories for the Winter Solstice. This book is pretty unique in that. The stories are well told, and draw from myths and folklore from all over the world. I appreciate the brief cultural context Edwards gives before each story. I think I'm set for Winter Solstice tales for quite some time.
Jan 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: druidry
I was very impressed by the geographic array of stories included in this collection. Each story was a delightful treasure, and I would be happy to read this book again. The included activity ideas at the end of the book were very sweet.
Nov 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I can't wait to share these beautiful stories with my daughter as she grows! The myths were beautifully written with great introductions. I wish I read the winter solstice games in the back of the book before the day passed!
Sara Q
Dec 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Wonderful little stories from all parts of the world, explaining the winter solstice. The stories are arranged in themes that make it very easy to see the patterns and overlaps from one myth to another. These would be great to adapt into a storytelling performance piece.
Mar 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
I loved this little book. To quote the author, in her acknowledgments and thanks....."Praise to the sun, whose light sparks all life..."

Who could go through these long cold winters and not feel this way about the sun? Stories are from all over the globe....
Jenni Pertuset
Mar 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: traditions
As part of our winter solstice celebration, each member of the family present read one of these solstice stories by candlelight. It was a lovely way to end the day, and a meaningful addition to our family's rituals.
Wendy S.
I was looking for a more wiccan/pagan slant, but the stories were pretty decent.
Jordan Stephens
Dec 05, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: christmas
The re-telling of the folk stories was fine, but there was much lost opportunity for substantive commentary that would have added needed depth to this book.
$3.00 find at Hastings, cute little book. I've heard of 3 of the 12 stories, so it was nice catching a few more.
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“In that distant beginning season, Sun Man's warm magic flowed over all the land. Whenever he raised his arms, it was day. whenever he lowered them, it was night. The Bee People and the Elephant People and the Tic People loved the rhythm of Sun Man's light. Their faces crinkled with pleasure in his heat.

But inside the dreamtime, Sun Man grew old. His back grew stiff and his knee joints ached. He rose later and later each morning. He napped soon after breakfast and went to bed in the afternoon.

"What's going on here?" complained Grandfather Mantis. "I'm not getting heat anymore." Grandfather Mantis sent the Bird People to find out. The Bird People returned, rumpled and solemn. Darkness was everywhere, even though it was supposed to be daytime. "Sun Man is getting old," they explained. "This shining all the time is getting too much for him."

"Well, I'm old," snapped Grandfather Mantis. "Doesn't stop me."

His wife raised her eyebrows but said nothing.”
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