I’m not a huge fan of Gaiman and I’m not big on mythology or fantasy of any kind so it’s understandable I wasn’t crazy about this book. Why did I read it? Because I do feel a kind of curiosity about the gods of my ancestors the ones the Christians essentially eradicated and replaced – but it took quite a while. (Actually, I am so Norwegian I have a brother named Thor) – And I really WANT to enjoy good fantasy – like Ursula Le Guin and Gaiman and Tolkien and China Meiville, but …
by Neil Gaiman
2017/ 304 pages
read by Neil Gaiman
rating: 7.5/ fantasy
This book is a series of somewhat interwoven stories which more or less follows the outline of the really general chronology of the originals (as transcribed by a monk after the spread of Christianity). This means it’s inventive but not “too” inventive.
But it is funny and appropriate for interested children age 12 and up or so.
And “chronology” is, perhaps, a wrong word – The world of Norse mythology is not creationist-based. Rather, it’s the cyclical story of ultimate destruction and re-creation – one universe out of another which is also ultimately destroyed and so on. It’s kind of like the Big Bang idea is cyclical. Gaiman’s retelling starts with the Tree of Yggdrasil from which many worlds grow including the world of Asgard where the gods live. Also in Asgard, logs from the that tree of life are used to create the first humans. It ends with the Ragnavork – the end of the gods.
The book is composed of stories, some long enough to have chapters, which concern the same major characters – the gods plus an assortment of giants, trolls and a couple of humans. There’s the all-powerful Odin king of the gods and the ruler of Asgard, and his son Thor who is the strongest but maybe not the brightest of the lot. Then there’s Loki who is a tricky little god/giant creature. And there are the goddesses Freya and Idunn.
The narrative, after the first part and actually entering the realm of the gods, Thor’s wife’s golden locks have been stolen and Thor goes to Loki and demands their return or else! Loki is a bright but mean little cuss and generally up to no good – we get some background on Thor and Odin, their special objects, the hammer and the
And then there’s the time when the gods wanted a wall built around Asgard –
Except in rare moments, the characters never break free of the binds of cartoon images – that wouldn’t be so bad if there were some other overarching point of the book, a couple of meaty themes, perhaps, or a wonderfully literary writing. But no, it’s a fantasy and perhaps (!) a bit of history in that these are based on the closest thing we have to the originals from the years of pagan western Scandinavia.
I understand that Gaiman researched what is available and developed his own stories – that’s cool – but I think the original were really more grim and violent. This might be similar to comparing the Grimm story of Cinderella to the Disney version and I think the original transcriber changed them a bit, too.
Fans of Gaiman or fantasy in general might very well love this book. (I did read but couldn’t quite enjoy The Ocean at the End of the Lane – I gave it a 7 – also read Neverwhere but that’s been a long time ago and I think I remember enjoying it somewhat more.
I could probably stand to read it again and make sure I haven’t missed something but … (sigh) …