Book Review: “Norse Mythology” By Neil Gaiman
“Norse Mythology” isn’t Neil Gaiman’s masterpiece or anything, and it should not be mistaken for any kind of thorough examination of the Lore, but it IS a thoroughly enjoyable recounting of many of our favorite legends and folktales. I’m giving it a healthy rating of 4/5.
“Norse Mythology: What it is and what it isn’t.”
(No Spoilers. Not that that’s really an issue with stories that are nearly 1000 years old…)
Right! So for those of you looking for a bit more than a back cover blurb, here’s the deeper look. For most readers, “Norse Mythology” is probably going to be a fantastic introduction to some of the more memorable tales of the gods. The forging of Mjǫllnir, the Mead of Poetry, even the origins of Oðinn’s eight-legged horse Sleipnir, are retold fairly faithfully and with fun hints of Gaiman’s sardonic humor.
That said, we Heathens are bound to look at things a little differently, and indeed it should be noted that this book is NOT a religious text and should not be judged as such. Gaiman’s goal was not to create an in-depth guide to the inner workings and history of Heathenry, it was to retell his favorite stories from (mostly) Snorri’s Prose Edda. Those well versed in Norse mythology will no doubt notice some slight deviations or omissions, usually favoring Snorri’s somewhat overly simplistic cosmology. These will no doubt irk people who purchased the book with the expectation of finding a more nuanced, Heathen perspective on the Lore. However, I say again, Neil Gaiman’s “Norse Mythology” should not be judged by that metric as it was never intended for that purpose.
For newer Heathens looking to learn, this book will likely provide a wonderful introductory launching point. Something to help understand the setting and context of the Lore in an easy to digest format, and encourage the reader to go study and learn more. To that end, the book will also likely serve as a great way to introduce key concepts to non-Heathen family or friends who may be curious to learn more. For the more experienced readers, if you can set aside your scholastic critiques, “Norse Mythology” can be an amazingly fun and nostalgic read, bringing you back to some of the tales that brought many of us to Heathenry in the first place and reviving them with a sense of color and wonder!
Stylistically, “Norse Mythology” lacks a lot of Gaiman’s usual flare. Those readers who adored the verbose and intensely vivid descriptions of “American Gods” may find themselves slightly disappointed by the comparatively simple and straightforward style used in this book. Instead of a modern novel, “Norse Mythology” reads more like the kind of embellished campfire stories one might imagine being passed down from one generation to the next on a clear and starry night in the country. In a way the book seems almost DESIGNED to be read aloud, and therein is where I believe most Heathens will find the greatest degree of appreciation for the book.
I’m giving “Norse Mythology” a solid 4/5. It’s not Gaiman’s masterpiece, and the style can be a little lacking at times for the reader looking to be fully immersed in their novel. However, the experience of reading these colorfully remastered tales to one’s children, and reliving the memories of our own first experiences with the Lore, make this book a wonderful addition to any library.
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