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Discussion Module

The Sea of Trolls
by
Nancy Farmer

Publishing Information: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, New York, 2004
ISBN: 0689867441/0786271515 (Large Print)
Pages
: 480 p.
Ages: 10 & Up

Summary:
Jack, a bard's apprentice, and Lucy, his little sister, are kidnapped by a band of marauding Vikings. Instead of being sold into slavery, they become the property of Olaf One-Brow and his companion, Thorgil. When Jack accidentally uses his developing magic on the half-troll Queen Frith, he must go on a dangerous quest for a remedy if he is to save his sister from bring sacrificed to the goddess Freya. He must battle dragons, giant spiders, trolls and his protect himself from his captors.  

Book Talk:
From the sea come the berserkers: smashing, burning, killing. Jack and his sister are spared from the Vikings wrath only to face a life of slavery. But Jack's newly developing magic protects them and puts them in more danger. When Jack destroys the half-troll Queen's beauty he must go on a quest for a remedy or risk his death and the sacrifice of his sister.  

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

Bards
Druids
Family
Matriarchal Societies
Norse Mythology
Sailing
Saxons
Stockholm Syndrome
Trolls
Vikings

Awards & Reviews:
ALA Notable Children's Books, 2005
Parents' Choice Award - Children (Gold), 2004
Parents' Choice Award
- Yougn Adult(Gold), 2004
School LIbrary Journal
Best Books, 2004
YALSA Best Book for Young Adults, 2005

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. Why was Jack selected to train with Dragon Tongue? What skills does he learn? (Extension: research the role of bards in Norse Mythology)
  2. Why are Jack and Lucy spared from the first slave sale? Does this change how they are treated by their kidnappers?
  3. What does Jack do that sends him on the journey with Olaf? What must he achieve in order to save his sister?
  4. According to Farmer, what is the origin of the Jack and Jill nursery rhyme?
  5. How does Dragon Tongue assist Jack after he his kidnapped?
  6. What are the different afterworlds for the Vikings? Which one does Olaf aspire to? Thorgil? (Extension: create a map of the afterworlds)
  7. Why is Jotunleim a dangerous place for humans? (Extension: research Norse mythology to find the creatures that inspired the characters of the book)
  8. The trolls turn out to be a surprising community. Why are they not what Jack expected?
  9. How does Jack's magic work? What is its connection to Yggdrasil?
  10. How does Lucy cope with the kidnapping? How does she cope when left in the care of Queen Frith? How does Jack return her to her normal self? (Extension: research the Stockholm Syndrome)
  11. Why is pillaging, robbing, and enslaving required for the Viking civilization to survive? (Extension: research Viking settlements in North America)
  12. Were Jack's parents good parents? To Jack? To Lucy?
  13. Why do you think Jack was chosen to be the Bard's apprentice?
  14. Why is Thorgil so determined to become a Shield Maiden? Why does she have such a childish, poor attitude?
  15. How does Thorgil change in the course of events? How does her relationship with Jack change?
  16. Is Olaf One Brow a good man? He provides for his family, and he loves his family. He is loyal to his king and country. Yet, he is far more complicated than this.   In fact, it could be argued that he is the most interesting character in the novel. DISCUSS
  17. Why do the Beserkers have to drink their special brew before they form a raiding party? Is this similar to anything in today's society?
  18. Frith is clearly the villain in this novel. Why do you think a half-human/half-troll woman was so evil? Why is this combination so dreadful?
  19. What are the Norns? Compare them to other "god-like" beings you have read about or heard about. Why do you think they are playing chess? What does chess have to do with time and fate?
  20. WHY SPIDERS?? It seems that the climax of so many books contains (a) giant spider(s). In Stephen King's IT the monster eventually takes the form of a giant spider who is laying eggs. In The Return of the King, the one of the final tests of Sam and Frodo is Shelob - a gigantic spider. Why is the threat of a gigantic spider so frightening? What is it about spiders that are so dreadful?

Related Websites:
About the Book:
http://www.kidsreads.com/reviews/0689867441.asp
http://www.richiespicks.com/users/stories/picks/the_sea_of_trolls.html

Subjects in the Book:
http://www.timelessmyths.com/norse/
http://www.pantheon.org/

Other Sources:
Interview with Nancy Farmer - Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 48:1 September 2004
Extensive list of sources are included in appendix of The Sea of Trolls

Read-a-Likes:
The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman, 2003
Beowulf
The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, 1983-
The Everworld series by K.A. Applegate, 1999-2001
Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry, 2000 (2001 RITBA Nominee)
The Giver by Lois Lowry, 1983
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, 2002
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling 1998-
The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien, 1954-1955
The Messenger by Lois Lowry, 2004
The Redwall series by Brian Jacques, 1986-
The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman, 2002

Other Books by the Author:
Do You Know Me, 1993
The Ear, The Eye, and the Arm, 1994
The Warm Place, 1995
A Girl Named Disaster, 1996
Runnery Granary, 1996
Casey Jones's Fireman: The Story of Sim Webb, 1998
The House of the Scorpion, 2002 (2004 RITBA Nominee and Winner)

About the Author:
Nancy Farmer is a three time Newbery honor author. She is the author of The Ear, The Eye, and The
Arm; A Girl Named Disaster; The House of the Scorpion; Do You Know Me; and The Warm Place. She grew up along the Arizona/Mexico border and now lives in Menlo Park, California.

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