In 1853 Hawthorne followed up the moderate success of his first collection of children's stories with "Tanglewood Tales for Girls and Boys, Being a Second Wonder Book." Like the first "Wonder Book," this volume gathers six more Greek myths rendered "presentable to children."
In the process, the author strips away "everything that is most abhorrent to our Christianized moral sense," not the least of which is anything that might imply that the Greek gods are, well, gods. On the one hand, it's hard to agree with Hawthorne's argument that "the objectionable characteristics seem to be a parasitic growth, having no connection with the original fable." On the other hand, the six bowdlerized stories, like the predecessors still "raise the intellect and fancy to the level of childhood, in order to re-create the original myths." In recasting these tales, then, Hawthorne has made something new and rather glorious out of them.
The stories as a group are not as well-known to young readers as those in the earlier volume. You'll find the Minotaur and the labyrinth, as well as Jason and the Golden Fleece. But there are also Hercules and the Pygmies, Cadmus and the famous dragon's teeth (which have inspired as many literary references as they had spawned soldiers), Ulysses and the sorcery of Circe (book 10 of "The Odyssey"), and the abduction (sans rape) of Proserpina by Pluto.
Gone are the interludes found in the earlier volume that described a horde of precocious neighborhood children encouraging and teasing their young narrator, Eustace Bright. Instead, Hawthorne presents them as polished manuscripts that had been honed and approved by the children, who are "even more delighted with the contents of the present volume than with the specimens which have already been given to the world." The stories are wondrous, in no small part because they are not as familiar. One drawback, however--as a cursory examination of the six subjects hints--is that each tale carries on a bit about the journeys that lead to the adventure; some children might feel these stories feature less action and more questing. But they are still loads of fun, and great for kids of all ages.