Friday, September 14, 2018

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Neil Gaiman, long inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction, presents a bravura rendition of the Norse gods and their world from their origin though their upheaval in Ragnarok.

In Norse Mythology, Gaiman stays true to the myths in envisioning the major Norse pantheon: Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki—son of a giant—blood brother to Odin and a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator.


Gaiman fashions these primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. Through Gaiman’s deft and witty prose, these gods emerge with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to duping others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.
“Because,” said Thor, “when something goes wrong, the first thing I always think is, it is Loki’s fault. It saves a lot of time.” 
It's always fun when an author narrates their own book! I thought Neil Gaiman did a brilliant job giving a voice to his characters. It wasn't difficult to discern who was talking, and I particularly liked his Thor. I'm not crazy familiar with Norse mythology, and I thought this was a wonderful introduction. The writing is simple, the stories were fun (in one Thor's hammer is stolen and he has to dress like a woman to get it back), and the characters had a depth I wasn't expecting. 

I love that the author tried to locate the original stories, and the tales that have been passed down over the years. There aren't that many left, which is a tragedy, but I enjoyed his spin on what he was able to find. It's a complex mythology, and we've only been able to learn a fraction of its history. In this version Thor and Loki are not bothers, and Hel is not their sister. Odin is the father of Thor, but not Loki, and Hel is actually Loki's daughter. (Gaiman also explains all of this in a way that is less confusing, hah.)

Leave it to Loki to have a wolf (Fenrir), a snake (Jörmungandr), and a half-dead girl (Hel) for children. I think Fenrir was treated the worst (and for no reason other than the gods were scared and stupid). I don't blame him for wanting revenge after what they did to him. Loki's punishment was pretty brutal, too. Gaiman's versions were a little gruesome (wanting someone's head, and settling for sewing their mouth shut), but that also made them feel more realistic.

The stories were engaging and enjoyable, and I felt like I really learned something by reading this book. (I'm also really glad I listened to the audiobook, because it would have been impossible for me to pronounce some of the words.) I appreciate that the author went through so much trouble to find the most accurate information possible. His stories don't necessarily go together, but they do flow in a way that makes sense. So much history has been lost over time, so it's hard to paint a perfect picture.

35 comments:

  1. You can always tell when an author puts time and effort into their research. It really does make the story so much better. Glad you had fun with this!

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    1. I wholeheartedly agree! Apparently, the author's love of Norse mythology started as a child. He grew up reading the Thor comics, and eventually started doing his own research.

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  2. Awesome review! I love that quote you highlighted! That was definitely one of my favorites :)

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    1. I thought their relationship was fun! I love that Gaiman showed how mischievous and duplicitous Loki could be. He comes off as a trickster in the movies, but there's always a redeeming quality. Loki only looks out for himself and does things that will benefit it him now or in the future. I also like that he made Thor's personality more... simple. He's not the most intelligent god, but he's strong and manages to use his strength to get out of a lot of situations.

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  3. I'm horrible at audiobooks but maybe this is one that would work for me since it's several shorter stories.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

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    1. I listened to this one over a few days! The stories are short, but even they have chapters. It was a quick listen that I really enjoyed! I also liked that Gaiman explains everything beforehand, so the actual stories make a little more sense. You might like it!

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  4. This would be an interesting read. I bet Gaiman does a good job. I’m not a fan of short stories but I’d try this.

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    1. All of the stories blend together in a way that makes sense, but you can tell a lot of time has passed between each one. It was interesting to see how he compiled the information he found while doing research. It's an enjoyable read!

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  5. I haven't read Neil Gaiman in a long time.

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    1. This was actually my first Gaiman book! :)

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  6. I can't say I want to read it, nothing new for me. I have heard all those stories before, they are in my blood :)

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    1. You might enjoy Gaiman's take on their stories! I thought he was a wonderful narrator, and I liked how he ordered the different stories.

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  7. I've had my eye on this for a while even though I've never read Gaiman. He just never seemed like my thing. I love that quote by Thor though! Awesome.

    I loved Norse mythology as a kid, but it never seemed quite as popular as Greek? I seem to remember Loki being like the son of a frost giant, and Odin adopted him? Do I have that right? Anyway glad this good!

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    1. This was my first Gaiman! I'm not sure why I haven't read his books before. Didn't he write Coraline? I've seen part of the movie on Netflix. My son clicked on it one day, and we watched it for a little bit. Some of it was disturbing... for children. I'm not sure how the movie compares to the book.

      I feel like Greek mythology has always been more popular. I love the Percy Jackson books! I can re-read those all day! The movie version depicted Loki as being adopted, but I don't know how accurate that is. I just know in Gaiman's version he never called him father. It was a short and enjoyable read!

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    2. Gaiman did write Coraline! I've heard it's good if a little creepy. I was never really attracted to any of his books, Stardust might be the closest I came to reading him because of the faerie connection (I love the idea of a fae realm, so any book like that usually gets at least a look from me).

      I thought Loki being adopted is from the myths, but I just looked at Wikipedia really quick and I don't see anything definitive on that. Maybe I got it from old Thor comics lol.

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    3. It was definitely creepy -- haha. In the movie, Coraline talks to the ghosts of dead children. I had to look him up on Goodreads to see which books were his, but none of them have ever appealed to me. I think maybe if I were younger... in my head he's like R.L. Stine and the Goosebumps books. They were enjoyable once, but not what I'm interested in now. I know a lot of people love him, though.

      I know Gaiman's initial interest came from reading the Thor comics, but I don't know how much of those stories are accurate retellings. Google gives so many different answers about his heritage, haha. I do know that in Gaiman's version, he's not related to Thor or Odin, but they're referred to as blood brothers, or they made a blood oath. It's all very confusing!

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  8. I've been a little hesitant to get this book since Gaiman can be hit or miss for me, but this sounds really good!

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    1. It's the only Gaiman I've read, so I don't have anything else to compare it to. I did enjoy his spin on Norse mythology, though. I thought it was really well done! :)

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  9. I felt the same way about this book! I loved it and found it to be really educational, but also entertaining. Great review!

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    1. Thanks! It was both education and entertaining -- yay books! ;)

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  10. Idk a lot about Norse mythology either, but I've seen some interesting stories and tidbits around about Thor and Loki. This sounds cool though, with how he tried to find the originals and then gave them his own spin. And that's great that he did such a great job with the narration too!

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    1. Thor and Loki have become more popular since the Marvel movies, but their origins are really interesting! I love how accurate Gaiman tried to be with his stories, yet they were still enjoyable to listen to. It might be something for you to look into if you have a few hours to spare. :)

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  11. I've never read anything by Gaiman (despite all the raves) and I know next to nothing about Norse mythology. Even so, this one sounds really interesting and it's seems like audio is the way to go! I can't imagine the research that went into this one - Gaiman must have a true passion for the material.

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    1. This was my first Gaiman! I know a lot of people love him and his books, but they've never appealed to me. I've watched pieces of Coraline with my son, but it seemed creepy. She was talking to the ghosts of dead children at one point... I don't know how it compares to the book.

      I would definitely recommend the audio! Gaiman explains where his interest began, and how he pursued the information for this book. It was a fascinating read!

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  12. Ahhh, I'm so glad you enjoyed this one, Lindsi! Norse mythology isn't as common as Greek or Roman mythology, so it's always interesting to see what we can learn from authors if they put in the right amount of research and tell us about it without being overwhelming.

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    1. I'm always looking for books that include obscure mythologies! I think they're fascinating and show us a way of life we're unfamiliar with. I've seen a few MG books that are addressing different cultures and their mythologies, so I'm hoping they're good reads. The Percy Jackson books are some of my favorites!

      You're so right! If they put a lot of effort into their research, it shows in the book. It's also great when the story in shared in a fun and informative way. Otherwise, it can feel overwhelming.

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  13. I'm usually not a fan of short stories, but this does sound fun!

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    1. They didn't feel like short stories! They were written and ordered in a way that made them feel like one full story. The events are somewhat dependent on each other, and a few wouldn't make sense without the others. I thought he did a really wonderful job.

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  14. My husband is a fiend for all things Norse mythology. We recently seen an exhibition at the museum that showcased viking ruins and their history, it was absolutely fascinating to see and be able to see artefacts that are usually lost to time. My husband has read the hardcover edition and listened to the audiobook and much preferred the audiobook as well. It's amazing to see authors like Neil Gaiman still publishing educational and entertaining mythology. Rick Riordan is another, my husband really enjoyed his Magnus Chase series which is Norse based as well but really aimed more so to entertain rather than Gaiman's dryness. So glad you enjoyed this one Linds, wonderful review! ♡♡♡

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    1. I'm a huge fan of mythologies, but I've always been curious about Vikings. I think they have such a complex and fascinating history. They may have been brutal at times, but they also thrived for awhile. I hate that so much has been lost over time.

      The audio was amazing! I didn't read a physical copy first, so I cannot compare the two. It's great that your husband has done both. I love Riordan's books! I've read them multiple times, and I've been reading them to my kids. I haven't actually read the Magnus Chase series, but it's on my list. I'm sure I'll get to it soon.

      I haven't read any of Gaiman's other books, but I didn't think this one was dry. I thought it was both entertaining and informative. Are you planning on reading it yourself?

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  15. I enjoyed this one too!! I also did audio format :D *high five* we're on the same wave length or something

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    1. *high five* Nice! I'm happy to hear you enjoyed it, too! I thought the author did a wonderful job describing old lore in an engaging way. :)

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