Book Review: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Archipelagal Norse Mythology

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

27 thoughts on “Book Review: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

    1. Hi there. Oh absolutely, I’d be lying if I said I was an expert on Norse mythology before I started the book. You can have no knowledge of it and still thoroughly enjoy the book 😊 Gaiman is a master storyteller that way! Hope this helps Xx 🐳

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I would’ve liked the stories to have been a little longer, and maybe even more stories! But I enjoyed it nonetheless; it is a great intro to Norse mythology. It was actually my first encounter with Neil Gaiman, and since then I’ve read Stardust and put a few others on my reading list.

    Like

    1. I hear you Lily! I read another review that said he would have wanted more on Freya as well. But nonetheless, it’s a incredible read 🙂 Thanks for dropping by! X 🐳

      Like

    1. It’s a great read, cut up into easy going little chapters. I’m a huge Lemony Snicket fan and manage to procure a copy of The Beatrice Letters. And I might say I am loving every page, trying not to finish it too quickly! What about you? 😊 C🐳

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Woah. I need to order me some Lemony Snicket. Shamed to admit it, but I’ve never read Lemony Snicket before.
        I’m reading Stephen King’s The Stand for the first time. It’s too long. A sociology simulation more than a post-apocalyptic horror, really. But I love King to death, so I’m gonna read this book in its entirety. What’s your favorite high fantasy series?

        Like

    1. Oh my goodness! I’m chuffed that you found my review somehow convincing! Personally, I’m pretty sure the book won’t disappoint 😊 Let me know what you think once you get a chance to read it! Thanks for dropping by! C 🐳

      Like

    1. Oh wow! Thank you for the kind words, I still can’t believe I’m managed to convince anyone of this book. But I’m sure it won’t disappoint. Please let me know what you think of it once yoi get a chance to read it 😊 C 🐳

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks so much for the book review, it sounds so fascinating, I’m going to look out for a copy next time I go to the bookstore, really excited to read it as I’ve always loved mythology, fantasy and history.

    Like

  3. I’m so glad to see this review. I’ve been trying to decide if I wanted to read it or not. I loved “Neverwhere” but struggled to finish “Anansi Boys” so I was on the fence about another Neil Gaiman. Your review took me off the fence and I’ll be reading it soon. 🙂

    Like

  4. I read several of Gaiman’s books before he published Norse Mythology so I couldn’t wait to get a copy. I picked up a copy of Carolyne Larrington’s The Norse Myths: A Guide to the Gods and Heroes at the same time. So glad you found my A to Z Challenge entries on Norse Mythology in which I will describe the players, their playgrounds, their tools, toys, and tales in alphabetical order rather than in a more systematic manner. My goal is to learn more before I take my first trip to Norway, not to become a Norse mythology expert or pretend to be a source for others to learn from. My goal is to provide enough material to convinced others to do their own research. I’ll be following your posts as well because of the connection between Shetland and the Norse.

    Like

    1. Hi Sandra. I love Gaiman as well, I started reading him quite young and to be honest I was mostly scared at first! But I can appreciate his work so much better now and he is definitely one of favourite authors to read and re-read. How are you getting on with your mythology research? It’s a worthwhile effort, that’s for sure. Cheers, C🐳

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s