Neil Gaiman is a god when it comes to writing. So it’s quite befitting that he writes about the Norse gods and goddesses, and the world in which they live. In this collection of myths, you read about Loki, Thor, Odin the All Father, and Freya, as well as monsters, the creation of the world, and giants.
What I know about Thor, Loki, and Odin come from watching movies like Thor from the Marvel franchise. While I knew about the Rainbow Bridge, and a little about Asgard, I didn’t know everything pertaining to Norse mythology. The mythology I remember hearing was about the Greek gods and goddesses–all tales I learned from high school. The first time I knew about Beowulf was in high school, but never read the epic poem until college. I learned about Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in college, too, as well as many other 14th century classics.
While I did not read Gawain as an illustrated manuscript–rather in a Norton Anthology–this is an example of the beauty of the actual manuscript, a project that could easily take months or years (probably) to illustrate and write out.
With Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, the tales remind me of such works of art, how beautifully written out the words are, how Gaiman re-creates Asgard and the other worlds in the Norse universe in a similar fashion. Though his words are not illustrated, unlike Gawain and the Green Knight, I feel like they could be illuminated in such a light.
I feel like I’m reading a set a fairy tales when I read about the gods and goddesses, but something much older, something that still applies to today. These stories are entertaining, funny, and occasionally dark.
It’s very fun to learn about the Norse gods, because as I’ve mentioned before, I know little of them. I feel like Neil Gaiman’s collection of Norse myths could be introduced as material in a classroom, because it’s aimed at everyone, but mostly people who are not acquainted with these tales. (I have heard of the awesomeness that is Neil Gaiman, and enjoyed his writing on Doctor Who, but have yet to read anything by him. This was a good introduction; although I know that American Gods is hailed as an force of nature, a story that turns quickly on its head.) Gaiman proves his worth here, even if he writes in simple prose. The simpleness of the words are not to discredit Gaiman’s work, rather, it reads like a fairy tale would, with a similar feel for a less complicated writing structure. Yet, these stories aren’t quite for children, but for a slightly older crowd. Yet they are not nearly as gruesome as the Brothers Grimm.
One of my favorite stories is how we got the gift of mead, which is the drink of poets. I also loved the beginning of the world, and how it was created. It was very clever, and interesting. The world-building continues throughout the novel, for the collection of stories will either hark back to one another, or expound upon what was previously given you as the reader.
Overall, this was a wonderful first introduction (for me) to Neil Gaiman’s work! I’m pumped to read more of his stuff, especially American Gods.