Review: Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology
Title: Norse Mythology
Author: Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Goodreads Summary: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 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.
If only Neil Gaiman had taught my Vikings class, I would have paid so much more attention!
I read excerpts from the Eddas for my class, so I did have some background in Norse mythology. This version, however, was a far more accessible and enjoyable version! Before I took the class on Vikings, all I knew about Norse mythology stemmed from Marvel movies about Thor...so I had many misconceptions. Thor in the Marvel comics is a noble warrior and well-loved hero, while Thor of the original mythology is quite a strong and heroic figure...who isn't all that smart. Similarly, Loki in the original mythology is Odin's brother and not Thor's, and his nature is even more mercurial and capricious than the Tom Hiddleston version ;)
This book isn't about putting your own spin on the ancient stories (a la Marvel), it's about being a storyteller and passing on the myths of old. It stays very true to the spirit and events of recorded Norse mythology, and the way everything is told makes it enjoyable like a tale by the campfire. Neil says in his introduction that he pored over different sources and tried his best to weave them together into a story, and I felt like he did a fantastic job of making the individual stories flow together and create a larger story arc.
The icing on the cake was listening to Neil himself narrate the audiobook. He did such a great job of bringing all the gods, godesses, giants, wolves, and other creatures to life. The stories of Freja's wedding, the giant king and his 3 challenges, and the story of Ragnarok were my favorites. I honestly can't think of a single story that didn't make me grin or quirk an eyebrow. 7 hours well spent!