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Review: ‘Norse Mythology’ by Neil Gaiman

Julia Ercolano ’20 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer/Contributor

This is not your MARVEL’s Thor. He’s not blonde, he’s not Australian, and his temper never really calms down. He’s a red-head actually, with a thick beard, and he likes to smash things with his hammer to relieve stress.

This more rustic Thor appears in Neil Gaiman’s new book, Norse Mythology, a collection of selected myths, rewritten by Gaiman and published on February 7, 2017, by Norton & Compant, Inc. The book is written with a modern sense of humor and an immense respect for the original tales while being told through a chronological order. The result is that Gaiman has told the story of the Norse gods and goddesses from the beginning of time to the end yet to come, allowing the reader to observe the transformations and growths of the gods and their relationships to one another while each myth is capable of standing on its own.

Neil Gaiman has been called one of the greatest writers of our time, and he brings to this retelling an intelligence, eloquence, and wit that breathes new life into these ancient tales. This book is the one to pick up if you’re just starting to educate yourself on Norse Mythology, or if you already know your Aesir from your Vanir from your Frost Giants. The key figures of the myths are introduced thoroughly so that everyone who reads this book can have the same basic understanding of who the gods are even without prior knowledge.

While the stories themselves are captivating, what sets this book apart is how Gaiman’s voice comes through the page. It feels as though the reader is hearing these tales the same way the ancient Vikings did—the tone is one of a campfire story: enthralling and mesmerizing, with that edge that leans towards threatening. For Gaiman’s writing, the fear comes through in the inevitable end of all days—the imminent Ragnorak. The threat of Ragnorak is the thread that ties each story together, and Gaiman dangles it over the reader like teasing bait, grabbing their attention then snatching the mystery away. We, like the gods and goddesses, must wait for Ragnorak to come to us.

In elegant prose and humorous dialogue, Neil Gaiman has delivered to our generation a conclusive guide to a story that has long been forgotten. Though by no means the exhaustive, comprehensive take on these myths—an impossible feat given the lack of information actually known about these particular legends—Norse Mythology is both informative and educational, a perfect blend of history, lore, and storytelling.

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