Short & Sweet: Harking back to the older, simpler days of storytelling, Norse Mythology utilizes a short, tale-a-chapter method of presenting old Norse myths and tales, with characters we’re all familiar with at the forefront. Simple and straightforward, but wonderful all the same.
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.
Published: February 2017
If I told you I’ve never read any of Gaiman’s work, would you hold it against me?
Because I’M HOLDING IT AGAINST ME.
Norse Mythology is as described: Gaiman plucks many Norse myths from history, weaves them with his own writing skill, and places each myth in bite-sized chapters that leave you feeling fulfilled, but not overwhelmed. This novel is easy to slide into, like a warm bath on a Friday night, with built-in stopping points.
We start from the very beginning, to how the world formed, touching on Yggdrasil and Odin’s neverending quest for wisdom, how Mjollnir came to be, the general ventures and antics of the gods and giants alike, ending with Ragnarok – the end of all things.
Some stories, like The Treasure of the Gods, are fascinating. Others, like Freya’s Unusual Wedding, will make you smile. Even others will cause a mix of schadenfreude and revulsion, like The Last Days of Loki. Although the stories build up to Ragnarok, Gaiman spins the very last chapter with hope, leaving you with a sense of peace as you turn the last page and close the novel.
All the characters are with depth, with no clear-cut lines of good or bad – Loki got everyone into trouble as much as he got them out of it, Odin saved as many as he killed, and Thor was stupid but mighty. It takes your idea of “gods” and turns it upside down, illustrating their very human-like qualities – and non-human ones, as well.
What shined from Norse Mythology was the simple way the tales were presented. It was straightforward – a goal, a path, a conclusion. As a writer as well as a reader, I constantly feel immense pressure to create stories with multilayered aspects to them, with total frustration when I fail. To see the older stories in the method presented is a breath of fresh air, and a reassurance that good stories, at their core, don’t take much to be good.
The writing is simple, the characters familiar, and the world rich. Please pick this one up, especially if you haven’t been introduced to Gaiman’s writing yet.
When you begin to read, this handy picture should help as you move through the stories and their locations. I only saw this afterward, but it would have helped immensely while I read!