Norse Mythology

August 10, 2017 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, )

norseNorse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

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I like Neil Gaiman. A lot. I have a tattoo of Death on my arm, and I got to show it to him at a convention in 1995 that I attended pretty much just so I could meet him. My fandom is great, is what I’m saying, and it’s hard for me to admit that he can do no wrong.

With Norse Mythology, though, I’ll admit I wasn’t that interested in reading it. I prefer his fiction, the way he combines mythology and fairy tales and legend and the modern day in the way only he can, and while others were oohing and squeeing over this book, I couldn’t muster up a lot of enthusiasm for it. I hadn’t even planned on buying it, but I saw a store selling signed copies at no upcharge, so I bit. At the very least, I figured it would go well with the books I got signed in 1995.

My expectations were low going in, but I still wasn’t that thrilled with the book. The introductory stories (chapters?) were more like reading nonfiction, with their bland retelling of facts, and I started to wonder if I was going to make it all the way through the book. Later stories were just that, stories, where Gaiman characterized the gods as if they were people he had created for his own story. Loki, Thor, and Odin all had their own personalities and traits, and Gaiman told their stories with the same kind of humor and charm that he uses to tell all his other stories. The book improved, since once Gaiman started on telling their stories, he stuck with them.

I still couldn’t find myself getting excited for the book, because the stories were still mythology, not Gaiman stories. Norse mythology especially is hard to take, since it’s so male-centric and battle-oriented. This might be true of Roman and Greek mythology, too, but in the Norse mythology, women, as strong and battle-worthy as they may be, are still there to be married off to whoever needs appeasing at that moment in the story, and the most important thing to the men is to have a worthy death in battle. These aren’t the sorts of stories I would normally read, is what I’m saying.

Loki features heavily in the stories, and I’m not sure if this was Gaiman’s choice, or is just how Norse mythology is. If it’s the latter case, then I have to wonder how much treachery and deceit was involved among the Norse that they had to create a god just to handle that sort of thing. It seems like an odd god to have among a pantheon.

Based on other ratings I see from friends, we all give this book a solid MEH. It’s fine for what it is, but I wouldn’t consider it required reading, even for Gaiman fans. One day the book might attain the same stature as Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, but even then, Gaiman writes the gods with a touch of irreverence that I have a hard time seeing used in a classroom. If there’s a particular audience for Norse Mythology, I couldn’t tell you what it is.

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