Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is a prolific author who has built a dedicated fan base through his long and varied career. From his early work writing the comic series Sandman, to his Newbery award winning novel The Graveyard Book, Gaiman has proven time and again to be a versatile author, writing engaging stories full of excitement, intrigue and humor for a wide variety of audiences. His latest work, Norse Mythology, contains all three throughout many of the tales. Gaiman remains true to the core of the original Norse myths, but by infusing his own style into these classic tales, he creates a fun and engaging read that will introduce some readers to the tales of Odin, Thor, and Loki, and will also engage longtime fans of Norse mythology.

In the introduction, Gaiman says that his introduction to Norse mythology came through the Marvel Comics’ Mighty Thor, created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee along with Stan Lee’s brother Larry Lieber. This caused Gaiman to borrow a copy of Myths of the Norsemen by Roger Lancelyn Green, which he read and reread, but was initially surprised to find differed greatly from the world of the Marvel universe. Gaiman says that he tries to remain true to the myths, he enjoys retelling and crafting the stories into his own, and encourages others to do the same. Gaiman writes, “That’s the joy of myths. The fun comes in telling them yourself—something I warmly encourage you to do, you person reading this.”

The stories in Norse Mythology vary greatly in topic, but primarily concern three characters, Odin, the wise father of all the gods; Thor, the mighty warrior and Loki, the trickster God. Other gods and goddess play crucial roles, like the goddess beautiful and powerful Freya, or Thor’s wife Sif, known for her beautiful hair. Even though the different gods fit a specific character type, there is still nuance to their portrayals. Loki is always a trickster, but he is not always the villain. In the tales, Loki saves his fellow gods from danger, even though he is often the responsible for the danger in the first place. Thor is portrayed as being powerful, but a little dimwitted, often serving as comic relief. No time is this more evident than in the story “Freya’s Unusual Wedding,” where Thor thinks he can obtain his hammer from an ogre by just offering him Freya’s hand when Loki says the ogre wants her hand in marriage.

Norse Mythology will not appeal to all audiences. There is a fair amount of sex and violence in the tales, though none of it is overly graphic. But for the reader who appreciates well-crafted tale filled with adventure, humor, and excitement, it could be the perfect escape into a world of magic and intrigue.

Elizabeth Weislak is the new Youth Services Coordinator and Reference Librarian for the Alamance County Public Libraries. She may be reached at eweislak@alamancelibraries.org or (336) 229-3855.