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 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.
Gaiman has managed to capture the epic beauty and unique intelligence of the Norse mythology. He’s managed to retell these long held traditions in such a way that someone with no prior experience can easily understand the stories. These aren’t the Marvel versions either so you won’t feel Chris Hemsworth or Tom Hiddleston jump off the page.
For those who want an entry into the Norse mythology then this is the perfect version for them and for others it’s a great jumping off point so they can get a feel for the players before heading into more complicated works. His book contains a large variety of stories with names you should find familiar such as Odin, Loki and of course no book would be complete without Thor.
Amidst their battles and journeys Gaiman provides a tour of Yggdrasil as well as the nine mythical worlds it connects. He does a wonderful job of providing an easy to follow outline of the mythology, its people and places so you can understand the various parts that make up this vivid world.
Ragnarok is finally given a place of honor after Gaiman spent his time building the foundation to get there so you can fully understand and appreciate the importance.
Anyone who has become a fan of Thor, Odin, Loki, etc through Marvel’s efforts would do well to pick this tome up so they can understand the backstory and get a fuller picture of what Marvel drew from.
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