I learned less but felt more than I expected in Gaiman’s Norse Mythology

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, Recommended, Uncategorized, Writing Thoughts

The Gods of Asgard live a strange existence; seeking knowledge, battling enemies, trying to contain the nefarious Loki and restrain the hot-headed Thor. Gods, giants, trolls and more plot, scheme, fight and invent in this series of myths spanning from creation through to Ragnarok; the end…

I was really excited to read Gaiman’s retelling of Norse myth. For several reasons: I love Gaiman, I love Norse mythology, and I wanted to know more about it. The book wasn’t quite what I expected. I was looking for more depth, more information and a more cohesive plot. But that’s not what myths are, and soon I found myself bewitched by the simple storytelling and strange world that I was encountering.

I’d guess that Gaiman has added little here. He hasn’t delved into characters or theorised or brought his own interpretation; he has told the stories simply and faithfully. It reads as though he has stuck to the basics that oral tradition has passed down. I don’t know if this is true; I don’t know his methods for learning and re-writing these stories, but nothing here seems overdone or re-worked. Just told, and well-told.

This does mean that we don’t fully get alongside the characters; but that is what mythic characters often are; an embodiment of ideas and legend rather than people as such. And let us not forget, these are not people, they are gods.

Having read it, in some ways I don’t feel a lot more knowledgable. I mean, previously I think my encounters with Norse gods had been strictly limited to Avengers films, but still. Here we read tales of Loki’s cunning, Thor’s strength, Odin’s wisdom and much more. Perhaps it is because I have studied the Greek and Roman gods, and their worship etc, whereas here I encountered the tales as they have been told for hundreds of years. My academic interest then, is not satiated, but why should it be? These are stories.

I really enjoyed these. They were simple, easy to read, but confusingly compelling. Though the stories were short, not hugely immersive and relatively disconnected, I found myself wanting to return to the book and the world. Gaiman here is masterful in his restraint; stunning in simplicity. I am sure I will return to this collection more than once.

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