Title: Norse Mythology
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Release Date: February 7th 2017
The great Norse myths are woven into the fabric of our storytelling—from Tolkien, Alan Garner and Rosemary Sutcliff to Game of Thrones and Marvel Comics. They are also an inspiration for Neil Gaiman’s own award-bedecked, bestselling fiction. Now he reaches back through time to the original source stories in a thrilling and vivid rendition of the great Norse tales. Gaiman’s gods are thoroughly alive on the page – irascible, visceral, playful, passionate – and the tales carry us from the beginning of everything to Ragnarök and the twilight of the gods. Galvanised by Gaiman’s prose, Thor, Loki, Odin and Freya are irresistible forces for modern readers and the crackling, brilliant writing demands to be read aloud around an open fire on a freezing, starlit night.
– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com
Neil Gaiman is one of my favourite authors, I haven’t read all of his books but those I have picked up I’ve loved and Norse Mythology was no exception. Many of the Nordic myths have been lost, tales that were passed down through word of mouth gone when people stopped speaking them, but Gaiman has taken the stories we do have and told them through his voice.
Gaiman’s Norse Mythology isn’t one story but many, and it doesn’t just focus on the past but the future, taking us from the very beginning and the creation of the world to Ragnarök at the very end of everything. While Norse Mythology tells us the stories of the gods – Freya, Freyr, Baldur, Frigga – of the giants and dwarves and monsters and everything in between the main focus in these stories are Odin, Thor, and Loki.
Odin is the first god we meet in this story. He is wise beyond any other but we see him before then and watch his quest unfold, witnessing what he sacrifices to achieve such wisdom. Throughout the rest of the stories Odin doesn’t seem to be an active participant but someone on the edge of things, watching over events as they unfold but rarely intervening. Thor may be the strongest and most honourable of the gods, but he’s not the smartest. More often than not Thor seems to be the god who finds himself entangled with Loki’s schemes, but it’s also thanks to Loki that Thor was gifted his great hammer, Mjolnir.
Loki is the trickster god. He serves no whims but his own and his jokes can be sly, cruel, petty, and driven by jealously. He likes to play at being wise, but he never seems to think too far ahead to the consequences of his actions should he not come out on top. When he is caught out (which he always seems to be) he manages to use his silver tongue to worm his way out of trouble, for another day at least.
I enjoyed all the short stories that made up Norse Mythology, but the ones who focused on Loki were my favourites. We saw the capture of his monstrous children; Hel who rules over the dead, Fenir who will one day bring about the end of the gods, and Jörmungandr the world serpent. We saw how he tricked not only the other gods but the dwarves who created Mjolnir, the ogre who stole from Thor to bargain for Freya as his bride, and the strange man tasked with building the walls of Asgard who asked for the sun and moon in payment.
These stories aren’t original ones, told for the first time by Neil Gaiman. As little as I knew about Norse mythology before picking up this book I did have a brief idea of what the stories were about and who the major players were, but I still loved this book. Gaiman’s writing was perfectly suited for retelling these Norse stories; it was rich and detailed, and made me feel part of the story. There was a lot of detail that went into Gaiman’s retelling, he added his very distinctive voice to the myths and legends while still staying true to where they came from and the original messages.
One of the best things about Norse Mythology, in my opinion, is that you don’t need to know everything about Norse mythology to understand the stories. I went into this book knowing very little about the Nordic gods, their myths and legends, Gaiman introduced me to but by the time I finished reading Norse Mythology I wanted to know everything.
What did you think of Norse Mythology? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.