Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

details
Title: Norse Mythology.
Writer(s): Neil Gaiman.
Narrator(s): Neil Gaiman.
Genre(s): Fantasy, Mythology, Retelling.
Publisher: HarperAudio.
Format: Audiobook.
Release Date: February 7th, 2017.
Length: 6 Hours and 29 Minute.
My Overall Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

thoughts

Mythologies give us a framework to understand the origin of the world, the fundamental lessons of life, or the faith of humanity. Through these narratives centered around gods, we find our place, our purpose, and our passion as common mortals at the mercy of stronger forces in the grand scheme of things. Norse mythology is one of those foundational bodies of myths that have shaped countless tales of fiction and influenced mankind’s understanding of their greatest vices and virtues. Albeit partially lost and forgotten with time, writer Neil Gaiman, author of countless tales likened to beloved mythologies, retells some of these great northern tales in an effort to capture his love for this influential material and allow his readers to indulge these myths in all of their splendid candor and gentle savagery.

What is Norse Mythology about? This ancient Norse mythology collection presents readers with a curated selection of long-ago tales from the genesis of the legendary nine worlds to the arrival of the twilight of gods and the beginning of a New Age. It mostly puts forth in front and center Odin, the god of gods, his son Thor, a powerful yet naive deity, and Loki, the son of a giant and the greatest tricker of all time. Through these stories, author Neil Gaiman highlights the cunningness, ruthlessness, and silliness of gods, while depicting a complex and rich world filled with dwarves and giants, ploys and pleasantries, and powerful items that should not fall into the hands of mischievous beings.

“Of course it was Loki. It’s always Loki.”

— Neil Gaiman

Eloquently narrated by the author himself, the stories are written in a wonderfully accessible style, superficially simple yet frighteningly vivid. Strategically and naturally ordered in a fashion that captures a certain chronology to the unfolding of these other-worldly events, he also depicts this world with plentiful detail, never indulging in over-exposition and losing his readers in the nitty-gritty. With each story, the world is further expanded, showing the strangely treacherous ecosystem in which revels gods, frost giants, and talking creatures. Through his warm and welcoming writing style, he also highlights some iconic items and their origins, giving readers an opportunity to understand the power they behold but also the raison d’être of these divine objects in the exploits of these gods.

Where author Neil Gaiman’s writing skills further contribute to the quality of this retelling is through his depiction of these characters, taking the time to give some of the lesser-known figures more leeway to leave a lasting impression on the reader. However, his portrayal of traditional gods as well as their candid interactions with one another, often accompanied by dry humour revives a much more authentic facet in these godly entities, at times ridiculous, and others, truly bleak and callous, clashing with popular beliefs. While stories like the marriage implicating Thor do quickly lighten up the atmosphere and establish a brief moment of fun and entertainment, later stories dive headfirst into sordid and cold-blooded stories where passion triumphs over reason. Nonetheless, author Neil Gaiman does a lavish job in capturing a convincing vision of the Norse pantheon, their love for competitions and dupery, and their reckless nature with inevitable consequences.

Norse Mythology is a masterfully crafted yet partial retelling of a foundational body of myths that explores a mischievous, whimsical, and capricious realm of gods until the beginning of the end.


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27 thoughts on “Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

    1. I don’t think I’d believe anyone if they didn’t think Neil Gaiman is an excellent narrator. He has one of those voices that just give every word a certain charm. I can’t call it an unfair advantage though. It’s like any other business. Take cinema, for example, you’ll clearly get more offers to play a certain role when you look to appeal to a universal audience (e.g. Brad Pitt) rather than other actors (I won’t name any hahaha). Not everyone looks like Pitt and I guess that’s what makes some people grow and succeed faster and better too.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I did take a mental note, some time ago, to get this book because it sounded indeed very fascinating, but that poor note ended up being buried by a thousand more of a similar kind (((insert long-suffering sigh))), so thank you very much for the reminder and for a very intriguing review! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amazing review Lashaan! I remember that I saw on Goodreads that Caroline was reading it the day after I bought the book myself 😂 it is definitely on my list and my recent trip to Iceland made me want to discover this fascinating mythology even more!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I look forward to reading (or listening) to this one. I’ll be curious to see how similar or different it is from other Norse mythologies I’ve read, like The Children of Odin by Padraic Colum. I’d love to listen to the audio version of Gaiman’s book. My brother and I were fortunate to attend an event at Wolf Trap, an incredible stage venue that’s covered but also open to the outdoors, where he spoke about anything and everything and read excepts from much of his writing. It was a fantastic couple of hours, he has such an engaging voice and way of speaking.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Children of Odin by Padraic Colum sounds very good! I haven’t really checked out much of the original mythology before this one and was mostly educated through visual mediums (movies, games, etc.). If you’re familiar with the mythos, these stories might not add much more but as you’ve mentioned, it’s quite fun having Neil Gaiman narrate these and discovering each story through him. That event you attended sounds really awesome too. Reminds me that there’s a book by Neil on writing that I’d love to check out someday. Hope you get around to trying Norse Mythology someday soon, my friend! I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on it and how it compares to Colum’s book!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful review Lashaan. I have always wanted to learn more about Norse Mythology, my knowledge is very limited. This book sounds quite good and I have enjoyed a few Neil Gaiman books. I will see if I can find the audiobook. Hope all is well with you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi there, Carla! Thank you so much for your kind words. I hope you are well too! I find that this is a truly wonderful and accessible entry point to Norse Mythology and I’d highly recommend the audiobook narrated by Neil himself. You’ll be quite surprised and mused by some of these stories! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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