Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Genre: Non-fiction, mythology
304 pages, 6.5 hours (Audible)

Neil Gaiman is a popular writer of short stories, novels, graphic novels, comics and more. He is particularly known for his novels Stardust, American Gods and Coraline, as well as the Sandman comic book series.


Norse Mythology is exactly what it says on the tin, a book about Norse Mythology. This is not a novel. Technically it is a non-fiction book, depending if you call mythology fiction or not. What it is, is a collection of mythological stories from Norse Mythology, telling tales of Odin, Thor, Loki and a whole host of other gods, giants and men (but mostly gods and giants). The stories are roughly chronological - starting with creation and ending with Ragnarok, the end of the world - and are told in a contemporary style.

Who Should Read This

You should read this if you are interested in Norse Mythology, particularly if you are not overly familiar with it or want a recap. You should consider reading it if you have struggled with the style of previous books on this topic. Even if you've never been interested in Norse Mythology before, you should consider reading this if you like short, interesting adventure stories. Readers of fantasy particularly will probably enjoy these tales.

My Verdict

I really enjoyed this book. I'm vaguely familiar with Norse Mythology, having come across Odin, Thor and Loki before in other books, but most of the stories I was hearing for the first time. As the author suggests in the introduction, I imagined myself sat warming myself round a campfire on a cold Nordic winter night, listening to these tales. They're all easy to read, fairly simple stories, and none of them are long. The author adopts a fairly colloquial and modern style for these tales, no high blown language but a simple, direct approach. For me it really worked. As one continuous narrative it doesn't work too well, there were some gaps, but you've got to remind yourself that this is real not fiction (again, as far as mythology can be considered real), the stories have been passed down the centuries and not all have survived. I'm not sure to what extent this book covers all the surviving Norse myths, or whether it is just a selection of what still exists, but it has whet my appetite to read more about Norse myths and mythology in general. Which I think is what the author had in mind.

I liked most of the stories a lot so picking favourites is difficult, but I did particularly like the story about how Thor's Hammer and other treasures of the gods came to be made, and also loved the story of Thor and Loki's journey to the land of the giants. Oh and Freya's wedding!

Notes on the Audiobook

I listened to this as an Audiobook, from Audible.co.uk, and as an audiobook I have to say it really worked. The author narrated the book himself, which adds something to it I think, it is more expressive and more real. Listening to the stories on audio is in a funny sort of way listening to them in their original medium - these were oral stories passed down the generations and only written down relatively recently so it is no wonder the audiobook works so well. That said, I'd like to get a paperback copy too when it comes out, to re-read some of the stories and that will help me to remember them. There's a lot of names of people (gods) and places which I can't imagine how they are spelt, and perhaps wouldn't recognise them written down which is a shame, but that can't be helped.

I'm giving this book 9/10.