Book: Norse Mythology
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
What is Norse mythology? Norse mythology is the northernmost extension of Germanic mythology consisting of tales of deities, giants, dwarfs and other beings. They are tales of interaction of all these – including tales of creation, re-creation, fighting, mischief, competitions, weddings, killings, search for wisdom/poetry and retrieval of lost items. Where do these stories come from? Are they based on actual real exaggerated historical events? Could real persons have become gods in these stories? Could be and could be. We do not know, but we know that the mainly Icelandic oral tradition has been recorded by known and anonymous persons as early as the 13th century. Prose Edda was composed by Snorri Sturluson and Poetic Edda is an anonymously compiled collection. These tales have since then been re-told by many, and these tales have also inspired many writers like J. R. R. Tolkien, composers like Richard Wagner and even TV shows like Game of Thrones. Or how about playing the massive multiplayer online role-playing game Ragnarok Online? Norse mythology and gods will be found there too.
Who is Neil Gaiman? Neil Gaiman (b. 1960) is an English-born turned American author of East-European- Jewish origin. He is a keen reader and has especially enjoyed very early on J. R. R Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Rudyard Kipling, R. A. Lafferty, Roger Zelazny – and Norse mythology. Gaiman has been drawn by science fiction, horror, comics, fantasy and mythology. He is well-known and well-rewarded for his fantasy/horror comic book Sandman, the fantasy novel American Gods and his children’s book The Graveyard Book – just to name a few. He has written for the screen and radio too. Voice acting is also what he does and he has even appeared on shows like The Simpsons as himself.
What is Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology? It is a re-telling of these ancient Nordic stories in a way that a common man or woman can understand. Odin, Thor, Loki, Freya and other Gods and Goddesses are introduced and their ways made known. Odin’s missing eye will be explained. The power of Thor and his hammer will be shown. How world became and what will be the future of world will also be told.
What did I expect? I expected to get to know these hitherto unknown (to me) stories. I expected excitement. I expected powerful descriptions and beautiful words. Being familiar with the Finnish and Greek epic oral stories I had some base for my expectations. I did get to know something of the Norse mythology, but was let down by the expectation of beauty. Towards the end there was some, but at times the language was really basic. It was a pity really. Neil Gaiman’s voice is good though and the reading out of the stories was good in many ways. I felt that he must have especially enjoyed being angry Thor. The audible, however, took me closer to London than Reykjavik. How many stars to give then? This was a bit tricky. At least a good three would do, but as one considers the value of the Nordic oral tradition and the fact that this pretty varied yet unified version brings these stories within the reach of so many readers, a four can be given.