~ A Book Review: Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman ~

Posted: January 13, 2022 in book review, Book reviewing, books, creativity, Fantasy fiction, Fiction, readers, Story, words, Writing
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I have finished reading my first novel for 2022, Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman. It felt exciting to reach a tally of nineteen books read in 2021, compared to thirteen in 2020. We’ll see if I can do better this year. And what a way to begin! After seeing British author, Neil Gaiman interviewed live last year, as part of the New Zealand Readers & Writer’s Festival, I bought his book, Norse Mythology. A big fan of myths and legends, the title drew me in.

Norse mythology refers to the Scandinavian mythological worldview that was commonplace during the time of the Viking Age (c. 790- c. 1100 CE). In 2017, Neil Gaiman released his version in a collection of short stories. Though neither original nor new to most of us, Neil reimagines the time-honoured tales in a way that recaptures our attention all over again. In reality, the old Viking myths are gory, tragic, and sometimes incomprehensible. You need a strong stomach. Even so, Gaiman makes them approachable to a new generation. He presents these raw, brutal, bloody tales and makes them cool.
The novel way the author gets around the oral tradition of Scandanavian storytelling is by presenting most of the stories from the point of view of an unnamed narrator. Through frequent addresses to the audience, the narration evokes that feeling of listening. Clever stuff.
In the “Introduction,” Neil Gaiman explains three things: the cultural and literary significance of Norse mythology; the difference between the traditional representations of these gods and the way they have been reinterpreted in popular culture; and the sources used. He also explains how he fell in love with the legends and his passion for the subject matter comes through loud and clear. “The Norse myths are the myths of a chilly place,” concludes Gaiman, “with long, long winter nights and endless summer days, myths of a people who did not entirely trust or even like their gods, although they respected and feared them.”

Gaiman explains that long before the Middle Ages, the Germanic people believed in two types of Gods, the Aesir and the Vanir. Complete with a creation myth that has the early gods killing a giant and turning his body parts into the world, arrayed beneath the World Tree Yggdrasil, and the eventual end of the known world in the Ragnarök, the Nordic mythological world is complex and mysterious.
Given the timeless quality of Gaiman’s writing, he seems to be the perfect fit for a book of Norse mythology. With its influence on Marvel’s movies, heavy metal music, and J.R.R. Tolkien, the references to the mighty Gods of Asgard, who came complete with their doomsday, have become a part of daily life. It’s instructive and fascinating to have a popular author unpack the mythology for a modern audience, already familiar with the main players.

“Many gods and goddesses are named in Norse mythology,” Gaiman informs us at the beginning of his book. “Most of the stories we have, however, concern two gods, Odin and his son Thor, and Odin’s blood brother, a giant’s son called Loki, who lives with the Aesir in Asgard.”
The author fashions these ancient stories into an overall story arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. It is a truly unique worldview and an alternative perspective to modern religions. Okay, you could learn all the same information through reading it on Wikipedia but where’s the fun in that? You’d miss Gaiman’s deft turn of phrase and fairytale flair.

Neil Richard MacKinnon Gaiman is an author of novels, short stories, graphic novels, comic books, and films. The first author to win the Newbery and Carnegie medals for the same work – The Graveyard Book – Gaiman has so far authored classics in almost each of the genres he’s interested in, primarily being fantasy, horror, and science fiction. For example, the comic book series The Sandman was one of the first graphic novels ever to be on the New York Times Best Seller list. In addition, several of Gaiman’s novels – such as Stardust, American Gods, and Coraline – have been adapted into successful movies or TV series. How many books has Neil Gaiman written in his illustrious career? A fan had stacked them up, and apparently, the pile reached over 7 feet. In other words, his output has been prodigious. Long may he write!
This book, dare I say it, is deserving of becoming yet another Neil Gaiman classic.
My rating: Four out of five stars.

Talk to you later.
Keep reading!
Yvette Carol

Before the beginning, there was nothing – no earth, no heavens, no stars, no sky: only the mist world, formless and shapeless, and the fire world, always burning. ~ Norse Mythology


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  1. draeko says:

    I actually have that book. It was good, but there was a glaring typo in one of the chapters when describing the dwarves I believe that really surprised me. I’d have to open it up again find it, but it was pretty darned blatant and quite astonishing that it got past the editor.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Keith says:

    Thanks Yvette. Do you know the author Jane Harper who wrote “The Dry” and several other books? My wife and I saw the movie “The Dry” last night starring Eric Bana and Genevieve O’Reilly. Very good story based in Western Australia about an old and recent murder. Thanks for the recommendation. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Keith says:

    Yvette, apparently she was a reporter first, then author. This story is a good one. I think she also co-wrote the screen play which sometimes is hard for an author to cut things. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • yvettecarol says:

      Interesting bio. Thanks, Keith. A screenplay is a completely different animal to a book of fiction, so I admire any writer who can take on both forms and succeed.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Keith says:

        Yvette, I think you are right. Some authors don’t want to chop up their book to fit the time allotted. I think these mini-series allow more for inclusion for longer books. I love Pat Conroy as an author, but when his books are made into movies, so many good characters are edited out. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

      • yvettecarol says:

        Yes. I always far prefer the book to the movie, because I find films never capture the full depth of the story. The mini-series does a better job because it can give things adequate time.

        Liked by 1 person

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