Book Review: The Return of the Light

A photo of the book “The Return of the Light” arranged on fallen evergreen branches and pinecones. A bookmark from The Little Bookstore peeks out. Photo by M. A. Phillips

While browsing my favorite local bookshop during “Shop Local Saturday,” I came across this little gem tucked among the various winter holiday selections. I was so delighted by the inclusion, I simply had to bring home The Return of the Light: Twelve Tales from Around the World for the Winter Solstice by Carolyn McVickar Edwards. I have a small collection of picture books related to the occasion, but my daughter is getting older. Her tastes and attention span are maturing! I thought this chapter-book-length addition could be an enjoyable shared reading.

Indeed, she listened to a couple stories, but she didn’t find them as exciting as the usual fantasy we read together. All the same, I’ve savored each tale like a small snack before bed throughout our Yuletide celebrations. They are enjoyable and very refreshing. Nearly all were unfamiliar to me and come from Indigenous cultures around the world.

The myths are not specifically about the Winter Solstice, but each relates to the sun in some way. Spirits attempt to steal the sun or return it to the people. In others, the sun is slowed to promote better fertility on Earth. These are largely pourquoi tales – stories that explain why things are as they are. You and your older children may enjoy learning a mythological explanations for why some hummingbirds have red throats or roosters have their crowns.

This is not an academic examination, but it is a great introduction to comparative mythology. There’s an extensive bibliography at the end, but the newest titles are from the ’90s and appear to be from a largely white authorship*. So, again, this is a fun starting point, but definitely not an “own voices” peek into Indigenous mythology, though Edwards uses a respectful tone throughout. Please don’t make this your only foray into such stories.

The end of this short read also contains various suggestions for children-friendly rituals, activities, and even carols tweaked to be more sun-centric.

The Return of the Light is an enjoyable little book that I will no doubt turn to again for seasonal inspiration. As an introduction to multicultural solar lore aimed at a younger audience, it fills a niche. Ideally, publishers would strive to create an anthology which works with authors representative of their respective cultures in the future.

*I did look up a few of the titles listed to verify, but I did not review every single item in the bibliography. The purpose of this review is not to dismiss these works but simply to point out the need for more diverse resources.

Published by M. A. Phillips

An author and Druid living in Northern NY.

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