First, a confession: Neil Gaiman could write an air conditioner repair manual and I would cheerfully read it. So the odds I would enjoy his latest release, NORSE MYTHOLOGY, were pretty good. Even so, I was surprised by how delightful this collection is. With a television adaptation of Gaiman’s AMERICAN GODS coming to Starz at the end of April, and Marvel’s THOR: RAGNAROK arriving in theaters this fall, now is the perfect time to brush up on the original stories of Odin, Thor, Loki, and the rest of the Norse pantheon.
NORSE MYTHOLOGY begins “before the beginning,” explaining how the world was formed from mist and fire, how the giants and first gods were born, how humanity was formed from fallen trees. It finishes at Ragnarok, when the old gods die and a new age begins. The stories feel ancient and vibrant at the same time, with a rich atmosphere and modern, engaging prose. It’s easy to imagine them being told around a roaring fire: they are earthy, poetic, and funny.
“When something goes wrong,” Thor says, “the first thing I always think is, it’s Loki’s fault. It saves a lot of time.”
As Gaiman himself points out, so many of the Norse stories have been lost or corrupted, he’s had to improvise and embellish the source material. But just as in his other works, he brings the myths and legends to life in a way that both honors their roots and makes them fresh again.