By Neil Gaiman
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Introducing an instant classic—master storyteller Neil Gaiman presents a dazzling version of the great Norse myths.
Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales.
In Norse Mythology, Gaiman stays true to the myths in envisioning the major Norse pantheon: Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki, son of a giant, blood brother to Odin and a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator.
Gaiman fashions these primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. Once, when Thor’s hammer is stolen, Thor must disguise himself as a woman, difficult with his beard and huge appetite, to steal it back. More poignant is the tale in which the blood of Kvasir, the most sagacious of gods, is turned into a mead that infuses drinkers with poetry. The work culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and rebirth of a new time and people.
Through Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerge these gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to duping others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.
I am late today and have yet to make my rounds for two reasons: real life and I know several bloggers who just finished this very book because it is highly anticipated. So I opted to skip perusing through posts during lunch today. I wanted to ensure that when I finally completed this review that it was completely my own. Let’s face it, we start reading reviews and we begin seeing things in a different light at times. I am trying to assure that this is exactly as it has played out in my head for the last few days. I mean I currently have a rainbow of tabs accumulated and a brain crammed full of thoughts.. let’s put them to good use.
The title alone is self-explanatory. This is a collection of Norse Mythology that is presented to us by Neil Gaiman. I find it unnecessary to remind many of you of the standards to which I happen to hold this particular author to. He is an auto-buy. He has proven his worth and earned that respect. He tirelessly prevails and exceeds. So I had no doubts that this beautifully and so aptly covered book would meet these high expectations.
What is presented to us is a masterfully crafted interpretation of myths that are easily engaging equally for readers with a solid background in Norse mythology to those with little to no previously working knowledge. I admit that I fall into this latter category. In fact, I believe most of my learned mythology was derived from comics and video games. My high school and college studies tend to have leaned more heavily towards Greek mythology. So I can claim not true intellectual comprehension, I speak only of what I took away from this reading.
This was an experience that read more of a worthy and fascinating history than simply fiction. We are given a clear concept of the events that unfolded during the lives of Odin, Thor and Loki. The stories are delivered in an almost simplistic yet impactful and memorable manner that has made the entire event flawlessly engrossing and informative. Gaiman has taken something older and complex at times and made it approachable for every individual.
After a welcoming introduction, we are immediately introduced to the key players and some familiar Gods for many of you:
Odin – He is oldest of all gods and the all-father, he is known by many names.
Thor – He is known for his strength and his legendary hammer Mjollnir, he is a son of Odin.
Loki – He is known for his wit and looks. He is a constant thorn in the sides of the other gods and Odin’s blood brother.
Don’t fret, Gaiman has left no stone unturned including many other gods and characters that are familiar to Norse mythology, including dear Freya.
I attribute part of the successful execution of Norse Mythology to just how well Gaiman has managed to divide each story and narration appropriately. He has even so kindly inserted a thorough glossary for those who find themselves in need. The reading process is fluid and effortless. This is a title that could easily be consumed within a few hours.
We are graciously gifted 15 stories within this beautiful title. My favorites would include:
- Mimir’s Head and Odin’s Eye
- Freya’s Unusual Wedding
- Hymir and Thor’s Fishing Expedition
- The Last Days of Loki
If I had to choose an absolute favorite god, it would be Loki. For all of his mischief and arrogance, there was a great amount of entertainment to be found within his exploits and adventures. He truly is cunning.
“Because,” said Thor, “when something goes wrong, the first thing I always think is, it is Loki’s fault. It saves a lot of time.”
“He is tolerated by the gods, perhaps because his stratagems and plans save them as often as they get them into trouble.
Loki makes the world more interesting but less safe. He is the father of monsters, the author of woes, the sly god.”
Gaiman has vividly painted the worlds of Asgard and beyond with great clarity. This fascinating history of mythology unfolds in a way that only he could make happen. His ability to weave endlessly enchanting stories full of magic and promise carry you effortlessly on a journey from the very birth of Odin to Ragnarök. Even those with zero comprehension of Norse mythology will walk away feeling knowledgeable and satisfied.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐