Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
This is a mostly spoiler-free review. The single spoiler is marked in the review!
I absolutely adore Neil Gaiman, as you can probably tell by this post, and snapped up a copy of this book in hardback within a month of publication. I’m a huge fan of mythology, but know so little about Norse mythology. This is a great introduction to the world of Thor, Loki, Odin, and the whole host of gods and goddesses that inhabit Asgard that have becoming more and more mainstream.
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 fashions primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds; delves into the exploits of the deities, dwarves, and giants; and culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and the rebirth of a new time and people. Gaiman stays true to the myths while vividly reincarnating Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki, the son of giants, a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator. From Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerges the gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to dupe others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.
Rather than a continuous story, the book is broken into stories from the utterly ridiculous to the incredibly dark. Gaiman’s obvious love for the myths he’s retelling shines through. His writing is true to the stories he tells, howeveryou can catch hints of his wonderful and unique voice.
I only had two issues with this book. The first is that I were there was more content! The UK hardback is 265 pages long if you don’t include the glossary. There was plenty of space for more myths and stories, but for whatever reason they decided to keep this one short and I’m not thrilled. I read the book cover to cover in a single evening, I really wish that he could have gone more in depth.
My second complaint is a little bit spoilery, you’ve been warned. You don’t get much of a sense of Loki’s downfall. He goes from outsider, but accepted god to full-on Ragnarök mode. There’s so little in between that it comes as a bit of a surprise to the reader who doesn’t know much about Norse mythology.
Overall, this is a great and accessible companion for anyone looking to read some Norse mythology. Fans of Marvel’s comics and films will delight in seeing the origins of Thor and Loki. If you’re looking for pure Gaiman, I would point you in the direction of American Gods or Stardust instead; those novels are his original works and you get a better sense of who he is as a writer than with this one, which is strictly a retelling.
I highly recommend pairing Norse Mythology with Joanne Harris’s The Gospel of Loki, which includes the tales in Norse Mythology and more in a narrative form and in the voice of our favorite trickster god. It gives a wonderful insight into Loki as a character.
Have you read Norse Mythology? If you have and you’re a huge Gaiman fan, what did you think? Let me know!
*Copy courtesy of Goodreads