Review: Norse Mythology

Posted 9 June, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 6 Comments

Norse Mythology
By: Neil Gaiman
Format/Source: Hardback; my purchase

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 was pretty excited when I heard that Neil Gaiman was going to tackle Norse mythology through his own narrative. Norse mythology is a fascinating body of work, the characters intriguing and powerful yet very human, and their concept of the world and its structure just intriguing. I’ve read the Elder Edda and some of the other works associated to Norse mythology but of course there’s so many different Eddas out there that as Gaiman mentioned in his introduction his take it just another voice to its body of tomes.

Gaiman’s Norse Mythology I think is a great introduction if you’ve never properly read any of Norse mythology outside what we know from popular culture (read: Marvel’s Thor). He starts by giving an introduction of the principal characters and the creation of the world and the Nine Worlds and the different creatures before delving into the stories. He doesn’t of course recount all of the stories in Norse mythology but covers the major ones. Some of it is familiar, some I’ve forgotten, but all is told in Gaiman’s signature style of writing and that odd quirkiness that he’s known for. Norse mythology of course has its moments of humour, which Gaiman definitely takes advantage of.

If there’s any quibbles I have about this book, it’s that perhaps he could’ve included a few more stories, but I guess he was going for the most complete of the stories out there, the most familiar (as he covers stories leading up to Ragnarok and what happens then). Or maybe it was my mood at the time I was reading that left me feeling as though something felt a bit incomplete from the collection.

Nonetheless I enjoyed reading this book and revisiting Norse mythology through Gaiman’s narrative. Definitely left me wanting to revisit The Elder Edda again as well as the Thor comics 😛

Rating: ★★★★☆

Visit the author’s official website || Order this book from The Book Depository

Tags: , , ,

6 Responses to “Review: Norse Mythology”

  1. I still need to read some Gaiman (the shame of it!!) but I’m really interested in this^^ I could do with a nice introduction to Norse Mythology since I’m not as familiar with it as Greek and Roman. I love Mythology as a general rule though so I’ll definitely check this one out 😀 Thanks for putting it on my radar^^

    • Oooh, you’re in for a treat once you do get around to his work! But yeah, I would say this is a great starting point if you’re not as familiar with their mythology (admittedly Thor: Ages of Thunder comic also cleared up a few details for me re: some of the myths). I hope you enjoy reading this Micheline! 🙂

  2. Good to know you’d recommend this book to someone who’s never read Norse Mythology. I wasn’t sure if I should read it because of that reason (i.e. I wondered how far Gaiman deviates from the ‘original’ material).

    • I think where he takes liberties is how he presents the material. I’d have to re-read the Elder Edda a bit to compare but as my memory serves it’s pretty close 🙂 I hope you enjoy this book when you get to it! 🙂

Leave a Reply