Sunday, August 27, 2017

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

“Fair enough,” said Thor. “What’s the price?”
“Freya’s hand in marriage.”
“He just wants her hand?” asked Thor hopefully. She had two hands, after all, and might be persuaded to give up one of them without too much of an argument. Tyr had, after all.
“All of her,” said Loki. “He wants to marry her.”
“Oh,” said Thor. “She won't like that.
Gaiman's retelling of the Norse myths came out of a lifelong love of mythology. His other books are steeped in mythology, so this more literal exploration of myth doesn't come as a surprise or a particular deviation. Gaiman immersed himself in both the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda and came away with his own versions of his favorites.

Loki and Thor, the two characters I already knew from the Marvel universe, are vastly different from their movie selves. Thor is impressively dense and Loki more nuanced than his villainous comic book avatar. Thor is more funny but less interesting as the muscle of the team, but Loki was a little harder to read. He's deceptive and underhanded, but his motivations are a little fuzzy. He also is continually welcomed back into the fold and the gods seem to trust him despite his constant betrayals.

Gaiman is a master storyteller, especially when it comes to the supernatural, so each of the chapters reads as a beautiful, stand-alone story. The myths are dark: there is bloodshed and deceit in each one, and the women don't come off as particularly powerful or interesting, but none of that is particularly surprising given the source material.

I knew very little about Norse myths going into this, and it was an enjoyable, highly readable primer. It's geared at a more adult audience, but would be readable for mature myth lovers/nerds of most ages.

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