Stories are what make us human. OK, there is not one specific double blind scientific study to totally back this up, although there have been a few on how stories affect the experience of empathy. But really, we are made of stories. Our experience of the present is already 80 milliseconds in the past. That makes every human a storyteller - we construct stories of the present and tell them to ourselves all the time. So, in a sense, The Encyclopedia of Early Earth, a graphic novel by Isabel Greenberg, treats the very thing that made us what we are from the beginning of human time. It is the story of a storyteller and begins with his miraculous birth. Three sisters, living in the Inuit-like land of Nord, find an infant floating in a tiny boat and each one wants him for her own. They visit the Nord medicine man, an old bearded man who lives alone on an iceberg, and explain their dilemma. He splits the baby into three babies and the sisters go off to raise their children. But when the boys hit adolescence they reunite into a single person. With all these experiences tussling around inside him, he becomes a great storyteller. Unfortunately, the medicine man messed up and one little piece of the boy was lost. The boy and his adorable little husky dog climb into a kayak to go in search of his missing piece and begin a classic hero’s quest.
But Greenberg's hero makes his way around the world by telling and collecting stories. Greenberg’s dialogue is full of clever banter and meta comments. All the wise old shamans look very much the same no matter where on earth they live. “Well spotted,” the narrator commends the reader. “This is a plot device that will never be explained, so deal with it!” Her illustrations are archaic woodcuts, with bold lines and simple, effective use of color. While a huge hunk of traditional myths take the hero from East to West, Greenberg sends her storyteller on a journey from the North pole to the South where he meets his love.
He collects stories on the way from a multitude of traditions, north, south, New World and Old, reimagined and woven into Greenberg’s early Earth. The gods, Birdman and his two children, kid and kiddo, are capricious, as gods are wont to be. There are wise old crones, whales who are really gods, and lovers who can never touch. Storytelling begins, ends and binds Greenberg’s book together.
Excerpted from Graphic Novels and Comics We Heartily Recommend. To read more please visit FictionUnbound.com