I remember reading all kinds of mythology, legends and fairy tale books when I was in fourth grade. Those stories all came together as part of cultural literacy, although I certainly wouldn't have thought of that at the age of nine or ten. But, I can recognize the stories and names when I see them. I just never could get into Norse mythology, though. However, Neil Gaiman makes it readable and part of the overall creation and religious story with his remarkable book, Norse Mythology.
Gaiman's introduction provides a history, and information about the lack of complete stories about the Norse gods. He introduces the three primary gods who will play into the stories in this collection; Odin, the oldest and wisest of the gods, who hung from the world tree, and whose side was pierced by a sword; Odin's son, Thor, the strongest of the gods; and Loki, Odin's blood brother, the shrewd and cunning one, the trickster. Because so many of these Norse stories are unfamiliar to many of us, there's also a glossary in the book, a list of characters.
It's fascinating to read these stories and recognize the tropes that appear in so many cultures. There's the god hanging from a tree whose side was pierced. There are the three Norns, sisters who determine the fates of humans, reminiscent of the Fates of Greek mythology, and Shakespeare's three witches in Macbeth (although they prophesied the future, and didn't determine it). The story of creation from the void, and a couple who survived the flood that destroyed all the giants by building a wooden box are certainly recognizable, as is the story of the end of the world. And, Neil Gaiman brings it all together in an entertaining book as he tells the story of the Norse gods and their world.
Readers will follow the adventures of Odin, Thor, and Loki in this engaging collection. Neil Gaiman continues to prove what a powerful storyteller he is, able to write stories that seem timeless and fresh. Any fan of mythology, of world legends, should pick up Gaiman's book. It's a new treasure.
Neil Gaiman's webpage is www.neilgaiman.com, and he can be found on Twitter @neilhimself.
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. W.W. Norton & Company. 2017. ISBN 9780393609097 (hardcover), 299p.
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