Name: Norse Mythology
Author: Neil Gaiman
Number of Pages: 299 (Hardback)
Published: 7th February 2017 by W. W. Norton & Company
Genre: Fantasy, Mythology
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. – Goodreads
Norse Mythology is a collection of short stories featuring characters already familiar through various means, whether other books or recent movies and tv series. Familiar characters include Odin, Thor and Loki.
I was pretty much hooked from the outset after reading the introduction in which Gaiman imagines a long ago time when these stories were told ‘under the glow of the Northern Lights’ during a winter night, or ‘sitting outside in the small hours, awake in the unending daylight of midsummer.’ Such descriptions set the tone right away.
The writing is conversational and draws you in easily, making the subject really interesting and adding humour too.
I’ve only a passing knowledge of the tales featured here, so I found the whole collection really interesting. Particularly fascinating is Ragnarok, the final destiny of the gods. What a tale is told of that final battle to come, in which the gods fight the armies of the dead. Loki and his monstrous children fight on the opposing side to Odin, Thor and the rest, which I guess shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise. And when it’s all over the cycle of life will begin again.
I really liked Loki as a character; he usually features at the heart of many troubles that visit the gods. He eventually resolves many of these situations, but he also usually has something to do with causing the trouble in the first place.
I also liked the children of Loki. Hel is the girl with a face of beauty and death who comes to preside over the dead who have not died gloriously in battle. There’s also the Midgard Serpent, with whom Thor with eventually do battle, and Fenrir the wolf, who will be there at the end of days. I could have read a whole collection featuring those characters, and their mother, the giantess Angrboda.
There are tales of love and hate, deception and competition, power, magic and monsters. Something for everyone, I think, and I enjoyed learning something of a mythology I knew just a little about.
I really enjoyed my first read by Neil Gaiman and am going to read more of his books in the future.