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Norse Mythology Hardcover – February 7, 2017
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An Amazon Best Book of February 2017: Neil Gaiman putting his own fingerprints on the Norse myths? Cue the hyperventilation of delighted readers. That reaction is genuinely earned in this tight retelling, as Gaiman darts between a Tolkienesque tone in the epic origin stories and his own bright wit in the tales centering on the adventures of Thor, Loki, and Odin. Those new to Norse mythology might be astonished by how bizarre some details are. (For example, the ship made of the fingernails and toenails of the dead might make you wonder how much the Vikings genuinely enjoying sailing.) The doomsday of Ragnarok will cause a jolt of disquiet among those who are used to Hollywood endings, and Thor himself will be a surprise for those who are familiar with Hollywood Thor—but those surprises are often where the fun lies. Fans more well-versed in Norse myths should still appreciate the humor and spark that Gaiman infuses into the stories he has selected to retell, adding to the existing rich literature. Many who read Norse Mythology will make this volume their joyful leaping-off point into a strange and mesmerizing world of gods, giants, undead goats, betrayals, a slanderous squirrel, elves, dwarves, and Valkyries. And don't forget that ship made of the finger- and toenails of the dead. —Adrian Liang, The Amazon Book Review
“Taking a few modern liberties with the stories, Gaiman’s Norse Mythology delights in the gods’ petty machinations as much as their heroics. In these accessible, retold tales, fantasy is odd, and real, and dire.”
- Ethan Gilsdorf, The Boston Globe
“No contemporary fiction writer gets more of his power from the mythological tradition than Neil Gaiman. . . . As always, Gaiman’s a charming raconteur . . . [and he] recognizes a ripping yarn when he sees one.”
- Douglas Wolk, Los Angeles Times
“A gripping, suspenseful and quite wonderful reworking of these famous tales. Once you fall into the rhythm of its glinting prose, you will happily read on and on, in thrall to Gaiman’s skillful storytelling.”
- Michael Dirda, Washington Post
“Weaving together ancient Norse mythology with 21st-century sensibility, Gaiman's storytelling once again recreates an entire genre for the modern reader.”
“In reinterpreting the tales so faithfully and with such abundant joy, Gaiman assumes the role of fireside bard, inviting us to sit close on a chilly winter’s night and chuckle and wonder along with him.”
- James Lovegrove, Financial Times
“Gaiman’s masterful storytelling transcends our most vivid dreams, exploring ancient territory from a fantastically fresh perspective. . . . [and inviting us] to listen to stories in the same way we would as children: engrossed and enraptured by the magic of myth. . . . [Norse Mythology] will breathe new life into these old gods, reminding us of the power that great storytelling still holds over us all.”
- Dani Hedlund, F(r)iction
“Mr. Gaiman milks [the Norse gods’ hijinks] for all their humor and incongruity, very much in the spirit of the originals. . . . [He] has produced . . . a clear, continuous narrative, with big scenes the same as they always were but with emotional pointers added.”
- Tom Shippey, The Wall Street Journal
“Remarkable. . . . Gaiman has provided an enchanting contemporary interpretation of the Viking ethos.”
- Lisa L. Hannett, The Atlantic
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Coming into the book, I only knew the basics of Norse Mythology so I was excited to learn more about it. It is clear Gaiman has a great interest in the subject and he put a lot of care into it. These are stories that have been told over and over again and this is another retelling to pass through the countless generations these stories have survived.
He retells the stories as chronologically as you can, and keeps the story flowing as it jumps around each chapter telling a new story and each story just as interesting as the last. The stories he chose were all fascinating, there wasn't a single one that was boring.
If you want to find out more about Norse Mythology this is definitely a fantastic read and a good place to start.
A prime example is the story of how poetry was born. "It is a long story, and it does no credit to anyone: there is murder in it, and trickery, lies and foolishness, seduction and pursuit. Listen.
It began not long after the dawn of time, in a war between the gods: the Aesir fought the Vanir. The Aesir were warlike gods of battle and conquest; the Vanir were softer, brother and sister gods and goddesses who made the soils fertile and the plants grow, but none the less powerful for that."
It is a great story, with a perfect comedic last line.
I had this idea that Norse mythology was dire and bleak. A mythology that ends with Ragnorök, the death of the gods and the end of the world doesn't sound entertaining. I couldn't be more wrong. For one thing, Ragnorök is the end of one cycle of the world. Like Wagner's Ring, the world will start over again, just as it once did to usher in the time of the gods.
I have read other books by Neil Gaiman, and so far, this is my favorite. I thought the writing exceptionally evocative. Obviously, Gaiman had some amazing original material to work with, but this was great fun to read. It brings fabulous images to mind, such as this from "Hymir and Thor's Fishing Expedition": "The grandmother with nine hundred heads killed each ox, skinned it, and tossed it into her enormous cooking pot. The pot boiled and bubbled over a fire which hissed and spat, and she stirred it with a spoon as big as an oak tree. She sang quietly to herself as she cooked, in a voice like a thousand old women all singing at the tops of their voices at once."
I usually buy paperbacks, but I got "Norse Mythology" in hardback, because the cover of the hardback is beautiful. The details of Thor's hammer, Mjölnir, are raised and the hammer glimmers. The story of why Thor's hammer is short-handled is included in this collection. Most of the depictions of the hammer in Viking jewelry and carvings show the handle even shorter than on the book cover.
5 stars and a book to re-read with great pleasure!