Review: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

About Norse Mythology

• Hardcover: 299 pages
• Audio: 6 hours
• Published: February 2017 by W.W. Norton and Company
• Source: Purchased (Scribd Audiobooks)

Goodreads DescriptionNeil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales.

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. Once, when Thor’s hammer is stolen, Thor must disguise himself as a woman, difficult with his beard and huge appetite, to steal it back. More poignant is the tale in which the blood of Kvasir, the most sagacious of gods, is turned into a mead that infuses drinkers with poetry. The work culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and rebirth of a new time and people.

Through Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerge these gods 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.

Why Norse Mythology?

I will admit to picking up Norse Mythology simply because I kind of love Neil Gaiman and I’ve seen a lot of people reviewing the book lately. That’s not to say I wasn’t interested in it – while it’s true it wasn’t high on my list, I knew next to nothing about Norse myths, and Neil Gaiman is such a great storyteller that I figured it’d be worth the listen.

And it was.

My Thoughts on Norse Mythology

I flew through this audiobook – it’s only about 6 hours, and the chapters are roughly half an hour each. Gaiman himself narrates it. For me, listening to the myths really enhanced the experience. After all, these kinds of stories have been handed down for centuries, and listening to them (rather than reading them) felt a little like sitting around a campfire telling ghost stories.

As with any collection, there were myths I enjoyed more than others. The Children of Loki was probably my favorite, and I doubt there’s any other writer in the world who could make me teary-eyed over Fenrir, the giant wolf-monster.

I thought Gaiman did a great job organizing Norse Mythology. While it’s not chronological (or at least, I don’t think it is), the myths are combined in such a way that characters are introduced in one myth, and then featured in a later one. That way, you get familiar with the characters instead of struggling to keep track of them. Same with story lines and elements – the context builds, so you’re first introduced to, for example, the world tree, and then later read more about it. It’s intuitive.

I should also mention that Jimmie was very excited when I told him that one of his video game weapons was actually a Norse weapon. Destiny fans, rejoice.

Definitely pick up Norse Mythology if you’re at all interested in mythology/gods and goddesses/Thor and Loki (though be warned, you’ll keep thinking of Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston – not necessarily a bad thing!), if you like Neil Gaiman, or if you want a short, enjoyable audiobook experience.

4 stars

2 comments

  1. This sounds about as good as I thought it’d be. 🙂 I love Norse myths and so will definitely be getting it at some point. Glad to hear it’s good. It sounds like he organized it well also. I never thought how listening to it on audio would be like hearing it around a campfire… how cool that would be!

    1. Listening definitely added to my enjoyment – he’s got such a wonderful voice anyway, and this style of story really does lend itself well to audio. Hope you enjoy it!!

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