Odin, Loki, Midgard, Valhalla, Yggdrasil…, If you’re a gamer you probably encountered one of these names in a number of different games. From Final Fantasy, Skyrim, God of War, The Banner Saga, and much, much more.
So, have you ever wondered what’s their origin?
It all comes from Norse Mythology. Norse Mythology is easily one of the most influential writings in entertainment, it reached even more than games, movie, comics, book and music; it even literally reached our day to day life: Saturday, Sunday, Monday, etc.
Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, as the name suggest, is a retelling of the stories in his own style. He starts with how the world began and goes forward till it all ends with Ragnarok, and in between, Gaiman tells a couple of significant stories from the myths.
Structure, Narrative, and Characters
Gaiman’s books are usually page-turners, and the same goes for this one. Each chapter of the book is a stand-alone short story, but it mostly involves the same characters. And with each story, you, the reader, will build a bigger image of the Norse Gods, their world, and relationships. Gaiman also makes each story fresh and exciting in how he writes them. Some of the stories are told in a whimsical style, others take to the formula of a classic fairytale narrative, and he concludes with a grand epic.
Short story compilations always had trouble holding their grip on me. Gaiman keeps his grip by moving the overarch of the myths by incorporating it into each story, or by developing the characters and relationships. Gaiman also keeps the reader’s interest by tackling stories that impacted and changed the myths; stories like how Thor got his hammer, how Odin lost his eye and how Loki’s children came to be.
Great dialogue is difficult to write, and many characters with bad dialogue sound like the writers talking from behind their heads. Only a couple of writers that I had the pleasure of reading were able to breathe life into their characters through dialogue, and Gaiman is definitely one of ‘em. When Thor talks, the words shape a huge shadow hulking over you. When Loki talks, you feel the words twisting with deception.
Unfortunately, the book is pretty short in face of the rich source material. I wished Gaiman shone some light on some of the more obscure characters and events, but he stuck mostly to Odin, Thor, and Loki. Nevertheless, the book does what it intends to do; give you an idea or an introduction to Norse Mythology and its biggest, most famous characters.
I’m a physical book kind of dude; I love their smell and turning each page as I progress. And I usually don’t buy hardcovers, it’s just better in terms of mobility, but with such awesome cover art, I have to recommend the hardcover version.
I also enjoy listening to audiobooks when I can’t sit and read properly. The audiobook is narrated by Neil Gaiman himself, and he does an excellent job. His style is more akin to the storyteller narration, rather than an actor playing the roles. You will get the feeling you’ve been invited to his own home, sitting in front of a fireplace on a cold night.
Verdict and Closing comment
I’m a huge fan of Neil Gaiman’s work. Like most of his fans, I started with his comic book series “Sandman”, but then I moved to his books starting with American Gods. And if you know Gaiman, you would know how obsessed the man is with mythology and Norse Mythology in particular. So I would highly recommend this book on its own feet as a book conveying the subject matter, but I would also recommend this book as a startup to the bibliography of Neil Gaiman. Believe me, it’s like no other.