Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
  Book Reviews    January 8, 2017     Eric Larkin


I remember studying mythology in school, and the Norse mythology, if we even covered it, was just a small selection at the end. This always baffled me, because the Norse stories were so much better than the Greek/Roman ones. The gods were less petty, despicable, murderous and rape-y. Sure, Thor and company were violent, but they mostly fought giants, which is cool, cuz these giants were bad, or they fought each other for fun. These Northern gods were to be admired, even and especially because of the certain doom they willingly faced at Ragnarok. That also made them feel more relatable: we all face certain doom, but we get out of bed in the morning anyway. The Greek/Roman gods were very much like us, but the Norse gods were like us at our best. Except for Loki, of course.

Norse Mythology is Gaiman’s version of those original stories, and it is exactly right. Some translations are dull as wood – oh, maybe they’re “accurate”, but the scholar can’t make them feel immediate. Not so with Gaiman, who makes these tales pop with character and humor, but never loses that Nordic muscle, stoicism and bluntness. He covers the complete cycle of the Norse cosmos (also better than the Mediterranean one), from before anything existed all the way to the icy, fiery end of everything: glorious Ragnarok, when we all die. Soooo great; can’t wait. Thor cross-dresses, and Loki gets frolicked by a horse. Dwarfs, Elves, Giants, Wolves, Eagles and Shape-shifters run mad thru deep caverns, riotous mead halls, onto fields of battle and across rainbow bridges. You learn from where both good and bad poetry comes from (not from where you’d think). Here are stories to pass dark winter nights, deep lessons to be learned (like the price of wisdom) and truly heroic gods to steel your nerves for whatever battles you face.


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