“Nothing there is that does not love the sun.”
-Neil Gaiman, Norse Mythology
I have yet to encounter a book by Neil Gaiman that I do no like. They’re all so wonderful, and Norse Mythology is no different. I’ve been interested in mythology of one kind or another since I was eleven or twelve and started out with Hamilton’s Mythology, which delves into Greek mythology. From there, I branched off into Roman myths, and then on to Celtic and Norse tales.
The trouble with Celtic and Norse mythology is that I couldn’t find a book that was accessible for those myths as Hamilton’s Mythology was for the Greeks. I’d read stories about Odin or Loki and the details would just slip away. It was like the writers were so concerned with conveying the age and weight of the tales that they would forget how very human they could be with their jealousies, stubbornness, and sometimes their sheer ridiculousness. It was like they were so wrapped up in form of the retelling that they forgot they were telling a story.
Gaiman’s version is charming and memorable, like a tale told by a campfire. The gods’ human qualities come through- Odin’s wisdom, Thor’s thick-headed charm, Loki’s treachery. They make mistakes and have to begrudgingly go and fix them, they like playing jokes on each other, and they trust when they should not and are suspicious when they should trust. In other words, they are as human as the people who created and developed them over the course of generations. And they stay with you, too. I won’t so easily forget how Tyr lost his hand, or how Mjolnir was made, or how Loki kept Freya from having to marry a giant (after he got her into the mess in the first place).
If I gave stars to books, I would give Norse Mythology all the stars.