Norse Mythology – Neil Gaiman

A delightful retelling of the Norse Mythology

This is my fourth book by Neil Gaiman the earlier three being American Gods, Stardust and Neverwhere. Gaiman is one of those few authors who can keep me engaged with the material for more than an hour. His tasteful use of the language to craft surprisingly simple prose in order to narrate interesting stories while consistently maintains the required tension is what I admire the most about his writing. Given this and the fact that I am a sucker for Mythologies of all kinds, “Norse Mythology” by Neil Gaiman was very difficult thing to resist.

In this book, Gaiman narrates the stories of the Norse Gods in his characteristic style. He narrates the events at the beginning of the time, of the creation of the Universe, of the principle characters. He tells us the story of how the primary gods got their weapons, how the Asgardians managed to build a wall for themselves while getting the Giants to pay for it (Trump’s inspiration perhaps!). He tells us about the apples of immortality whose theft resulted in Freyr’s father Njord getting a wife, of the time when Thor’s hammer went missing, and the incident where Thor and Loki were humbled. He also tells the story of how Odin managed to get the mead of poetry for the Gods and the one about a hole in Freyr’s heart which he was able to fill but at the cost of his powerful sword. These stories which narrated earlier in the book have an element of comedy in them and all of them have happy endings. Later on,Gaiman moves to narrate some of the darker stories, which is very much his forte. These include the stories of Balder’s death, of Loki’s imprisonment and finally of the impending Ragnarok which will see the death of several principle Gods and lay the foundations of a new beginning.

Is this book Norse Mythology reimagined ? Fortunately, the answer is No! Gaiman stays true to the source material the Prose and the Poetic Eddas. So it is a retelling of the Norse Mythology where the only liberties that Gaiman could afford to take were in the manner in which these stories were narrated.

I have often felt that when it comes to the literary works which are products of old culture, instead of trying to narrate them in a modern perspective, just retelling them using the modern narrative medium, be it in writing or the audio-visual medium, helps the reader in getting to know about those cultures far better than any re-imagination can.  Gaiman’s Norse Mythology  excels exactly in this aspect, which is why I would rate it 4.5/5

About gautshen

A jack of many trades of which , Linux Kernel Programming puts food on the table. Also pursuing his PhD in the area Theoretical Computer Science at the Chennai Mathematical Institute. Is an avid reader interested in the Hindu traditions and philosophy. Loves Bicycling and Good Music. Name is Ranjal Gautham Shenoy.
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