Book Review: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

As soon as I saw Neil Gaiman’s announcement for Norse Mythology, I knew I had to read it because 1) I have always had a fascination for folklore, and 2) I live in an island with a strong Scandinavian history.
My parents hail from the midlands, but somehow our family ended up in the highlands, where I was raised. I often think my coming-of-age as a patchwork of stories from different parts of the Philippine archipelagoa commingling of old wives tales, legends, and barrio superstition. Norse Mythology entices my inner feral child. (Although my husband would argue that feral child only transitioned into feral adult … feradult. Can that be a thing?)

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman: a Review by Archipelagal
Photo: archipelagal.com

In this masterpiece, Gaiman gives an thrilling account of the Norse gods, speaking in a voice that resonates to the young and young at heart. He begins the retelling just as anyone would, by introducing the players. The northern deities themselves need no introduction, but the author acquaints them with the reader in a completely different light. I caught myself chuckling when was Loki was pegged as someone who “makes the world more interesting, but less safe.”
The playing field is then laid out, from the story the giant ash tree, Yggdrasil, which spans and connects the nine worlds, to Ragnarok, the “end of days.” From there, the story is as how we remember it: Odin’s eye is a casualty in his quest for knowledge, earning him names such as “Blindr” (the blind god), “Hoarr” (the one-eyed), and “Baleyg” (the flaming-eyed one). We then become privy to how Loki’s mischief results in two ambitious dwarves forging Mjollnir, more commonly known as the mighty hammer of Thor. The contrast between Gaiman’s retelling of Mjollnir and its translation into movies such as Thor and The Avengers is amusing, to say the least.
Even the plight of the Norse gods’ greatest enemies is not forgotten in this bestseller. We learn about Fenrir the wolf who is prophesied to devour Odin and ultimately bring on Ragnarok, the Midgard serpent who is Thor’s arch nemesis, and Hel the queen of the dead who was thrown into the underworld by Odin.
Gaiman navigates the back roads of Norse mythology with great ease and a touch of whimsicality, leading up to Balder’s death and Loki’s last days. At the end of the story is Ragnarok, where the worlds inevitably end “in ash and flood, in darkness and ice.”

Gaiman navigates the back roads of Norse mythology with great ease and a touch of whimsicality

Norse Mythology is a much-needed (ironically) humane retelling of the great northern tales. Gaiman underlines how important oral traditions are to mankindperhaps the reason why he has taken a more affectionate, tone terms of voice for this book. Never will I deem myself worthy of encapsulating anything written by the master storyteller, and so I end with a personal highlight, one from the chapter on the mead of poets.
“Do you wonder where poetry comes from? Where get the songs we sing and the tales we tale? … It is a long story, and it does no credit to anyone: there is murder in it, and trickery, lies and foolishness, seduction and pursuit. Listen.”

[This review was written for the National Bookstore blog]

Dear Fellow Adventurers,
Thank you once again for the overwhelming support that you have shown since I launched Archipelagal in January 2018. For the two meager posts that I’ve published, you’ve given me 200+ follows! That’s an average of a hundred follows for each entry, if my Math serves me right 😉
I covet your continuous support as I do my best to bring you both mundane and “EELectrifying” stories of my island living. I am enjoying being able to catch up with what everyone has been up to on my WordPress feed—so keep the posts coming!
I would also love to know what books you have been reading and re-reading lately. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch by 1) leaving a comment below, 2) sending me a message via my contact form, or 3) emailing me at archipelagal@gmail.com.
I await (and trust) your book recommendations,
Your Archipelagal