Get our latest staff recommendations, award news and digital catalog links right to your inbox.
The Sea of Trolls
Table of Contents
About The Book
“The Sea of Trolls blends ancient history and Norse epics with recognizable bits of Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings” (The New York Times).
Jack is kidnapped by berserkers from his Saxon village in the year A.D. 793, an occurrence forewarned by his mentor the Bard. Captured by Viking chief Olaf One-Brow, Jack and his sister, Lucy, are swiftly taken to the court of Ivar the Boneless.
Ivar is married to a half-troll named Frith, an evil and unpredictable queen with a strange power over her husband’s court. Jack mistakenly casts a charm on her—and is banished to the kingdom of the trolls to find the magic that will undo the charm. Accompanied by Thorgill, a shield maiden who wants to be a berserker, and by the mysterious crow called Bold Heart, Jack sets out on a harrowing and exciting quest for the ages.
From National Book Award winner Nancy Farmer, this first book in the Sea of Trolls trilogy is epic fantasy at its best.
Reading Group Guide
Join our mailing list! Get our latest staff recommendations, award news and digital catalog links right to your inbox.
THE SEA OF TROLLS
By Nancy Farmer
ABOUT THE BOOK
In A.D. 793, eleven-year-old Jack leaves his family farm to become an apprentice to the Bard, a druid from Ireland, who is assigned to his Saxon village. At first, he is unsure of his duties, and is puzzled when the Bard experiences a nightmare that Jack later learns foreshadows a rollicking and dangerous adventure-quest with the Northmen, led by Ivar the Boneless. Jack and his little sister, Lucy, are snatched by the berserkers and enslaved by Olaf One-Brow and his shipmate, Thorgil. Accompanied by a crow called Bold Heart, the two children encounter a sea of characters: humans and animals, trolls and half-trolls. There are surprises around every corner, and just when doom seems imminent, there is a bit of humor to lighten the suspense. Steeped in Norse mythology and Saxon history, The story brings Jack and Lucy full circle, but with a surprise ending.
Ask students to research the unique elements in Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology and share their findings in class. What are the significant differences? List the most common figures and distinctive characteristics of the Norse myths. Tell students to keep these in mind as they read The Sea of Trolls.
• Good vs. evil is a common theme in fantasy novels. Discuss the good and evil forces in The Sea of Trolls.
• Describe Jack's family. Contrast Jack's relationship with his mother to his relationship with his father. Lucy, Jack's younger sister, appears to be very spoiled. Why does Jack's father allow her to live in a fantasy world? How does her fantasy world protect her when she encounters Queen Frith?
• Giles Crookleg is very religious. How does he convey his religion to his children? Discuss how his religion is in conflict with his wife's practice of magic. Jack learns from his mother how to talk to bees and how to soothe frightened animals with song. What type of magic does he learn from the Bard? What does the Bard mean when he tells Jack "Real magic is dangerous"?
• The Bard, a druid from Ireland, is also known as Dragon Tongue. How does he acquire this name? What is the role of the Bard to the village people? Describe Jack's relationship with the Bard. Why does the Bard choose Jack to be his apprentice? Why doesn't Giles Crookleg want his son to go with the Bard? What is Jack's mother's opinion of the Bard? Discuss what Jack learns during his apprenticeship.
• The Bard advises Jack, "You should look intelligent even when you aren't." How does this advice serve Jack as he travels on his quest?
• Explain the Bard's nightmares. How do his nightmares foreshadow Jack's journey and encounter with the evil forces?
• How does the Bard protect the village people from the Jotuns? The Bard tells Jack, "Only a very special kind of warrior can overcome them." Describe the qualities of this kind of warrior. How does listening to the Bard's stories about the Jotuns help Jack see his father differently?
• Why does the Bard give Jack the rune of protection? How does the Bard's gift leave him vulnerable to the evil forces? At one point, Jack almost gives the rune to Lucy. Explain why he changes his mind. Why does Jack give the rune to Thorgil?
• The Bard tells Jack, "You see, lad, most people live like birds in a cage. It makes them feel safe. The world's a frightening place, full of glory and wonder and danger." Describe the "glory, wonder and danger" that Jack and Lucy face. What do they learn about the world by the end of the novel? How does the Bard's statement to Jack apply to the world we live in, and the way we live our lives?
• The Bard teaches Jack about fear, pain, power, magic, and anger. How does the Bard's warning of Ivar the Boneless and Queen Frith leave Jack "dizzy with fear"? At what point does Jack experience the most pain and anger? How does his magic make him feel powerful? What important lesson does he learn about power?
• Discuss the significance of Mimir's Well.
RESEARCH & ACTIVITIES
• Giles Crookleg can't read, but he has memorized stories from the monks of the Holy Isle. Write and illustrate a story that Giles might have told his children.
• When Olaf relates Thorgil's story, Jack thinks that it would make a good poem. Write the poem, and give it a happier ending to please Jack.
• Jack's mother fears that Lucy can't tell the difference between fact and fantasy. Research the Vikings. Write a factual and a fanciful story about the Vikings. Share the stories in class. Which type of story creates the most interest?
• There are good physical descriptions of the characters, both human and animal. Make an illustrated chart of the novel's characters.
• Identify the most humorous scenes in the book. In small groups, select a scene to perform as a one-act play. Create appropriate costumes.
• Four of the days of the week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday) are named for Scandinavian gods. Research these days of the week and find out which gods the names represent. Pick one of these days and write or retell the myth that explains the name.
• The birth of Norse mythology was pre-Christianity. Research the story of the Norse creation and write a short paper that draws a parallel between this story and the creation story taught in your religion.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nancy Farmer has written three Newbery Honor Books: The Eye, the Ear, and the Arm; A Girl Named Disaster; and The House of the Scorpion, which also won the 2002 National Book Award. Her other books include her most recent novel The Sea of Trolls, Do You Know Me, The Warm Place, and three picture books for young children. She lives with her family in Menlo Park, California.
This reading group guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Prepared by Pat Scales, Director of Library Services, SC Governor¹s School for Arts and Humanities, Greenville.
- Publisher: Gallery/Saga Press (June 30, 2015)
- Length: 496 pages
- ISBN13: 9781481443081
Browse Related Books
Awards and Honors
- School Library Journal Best Books of the Year
- ALA Notable Children's Books
- Horn Book Fanfare
- CCBC Choices (Cooperative Children's Book Council)
- Virginia Young Readers List
- ALA Best Books For Young Adults
- Iowa Teen Award Nominee
- Bank Street Best Books of the Year
- Kansas NEA Reading Circle List Junior Title
- NYPL 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
- Young Hoosier Book Award Nominee (IN)
- PSLA Fiction List
- Louisiana Young Readers' Choice Award Nominee
- Publishers Weekly Best Books
- Chicago Public Library's Best of the Best
- Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award Master List
- Kirkus Editor's Choice
- Nutmeg Book Award Nominee (CT)
- NYPL Best Books for Teens
- Rhode Island Teen Book Award Nominee
- Great Stone Face Book Award Nominee (NH)
- Capital Choices Noteworthy Books for Children's and Teens (DC)
- NCTE Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts
- Pennsylvania School Librarian Association (PSLA) "Top Ten (Or So)" Young Adult Books
- Texas Lone Star Reading List
- Northern California Book Award Nominee
- YALSA Teens Top Ten (TTT) Nominee
- Rebecca Caudill Young Readers' Book Award Master List (IL)
- Great Lakes Great Books Master List (MI)
- Westchester's Choice
- Child Magazine's Guide to Top Books, Videos and Software of the Year
- Washington Post Best Books
- Pacific Northwest Young Reader's Choice Award Master List
- Mythopoeic Fantasy Award Finalist
- Flicker Tale Award Nominee (ND)
- Blue Hen Book Award Nominee (DE)
- Judy Lopez Memorial Award Winner
- PEN USA Literary Award Finalist
- ALA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults Nominee
Resources and Downloads
High Resolution Images
Book Cover Image (jpg): The Sea of Trolls
Mass Market Paperback 9781481443081
Author Photo (jpg): Nancy Farmer
Photo Credit:(0.1 MB)
Any use of an author photo must include its respective photo credit
More books in this series: The Sea of Trolls Trilogy
More to Explore
Our Summer Reading Recommendations
Red-hot romances, poolside fiction, and blockbuster picks, oh my! Start reading the hottest books of the summer.
This Month's New Releases
From heart-pounding thrillers to poignant memoirs and everything in between, check out what's new this month.