Review: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman - 8.5/10*
Gaiman is, without a doubt, one of the most multi-talented writers alive today. I don’t say this out of a sense of personal bias, but with a degree of objectivity. Not only does he write fantastic comics, intelligent children’s stories and detailed novels about the nature of godhood (even if I didn’t personally enjoy them all), he also has adapted Norse mythology and re-written it with his modern stylish flair.
He really is a talented man; he is capable of that rare, rare, thing of being able to write fiction that is worthy of literary criticism but is also ridiculously popular and, well, just plain cool. He has many years of writing ahead of him (I hope.) And I don’t think it is too far a thing to suggest that he may win the noble prize for literature in his lifetime. He has contributed much to the arts, and this work here shows he has much more to give. I think he really deserves it.
So here he has retold some already excellent stories. In doing so he makes them approachable and, perhaps even, more engaging for a reader today. I do like old poetry, though not everyone does. I think this can be taken as either an introduction to such works or simply as it is at face value. And it really is what it says on the cover: it’s a whole bunch or Norse stories about some familiar faces. We have Odin, conniving and powerful. We have Thor, strong and honourable. And we have Loki, cunning and ingenious with his own complex intentions. They do battle with each other, with the elements and a whole host of nasties. But not before Gaiman takes the time to provide you with guided tour of Yggdrasil and the nine worlds that take root from her. He clearly establishes the confounds of this mythology before he even begins.
The collection ends with the most appropriate tale of them all, Ragnarok: the final destiny of the gods. It spends the entirety of the collection building up to it:
“Until now I have told you of things that have happened in the past- things that happened a long time ago.
Now I shall tell you of the days to come”
Thus we witness the end of time. The gods fight in one final glorious battle. Loki, naturally, does not fight with the gods of Asgard. Instead he leads the armies of the dead against them. Many of the gods will die, and the pattern will begin anew as their offspring pick up the weapons of their slain forbears; ultimately, taking on their mantels. The cycle continues, as Gaiman captures the heart of Norse mythology here.
What I also noticed is how these tales have affected his other works. Sure, the characters are different; yes, the setting is warped into something else, but you can clearly see how writing this, and researching this, has oozed out into his other projects. This ideas of rejuvenation is repeated in the Sandman series, for example. Gaiman also narrates his personal journey in the introduction; this book has been a long time coming: this topic has clearly helped to propel much of his writing, and it really is worth hearing about.