“Of course I do,” said Thor. But he didn’t. He was just doing whatever he felt like doing. That was what Thor did best.
Neil Gaiman has been a Norse mythology fanboy since childhood. His novel American Gods (my first Gaiman and one of my Top 5 books from last year’s CBR) heavily features Odin and Loki. Gaiman wrote Norse Mythology in part because a lot of the Norse Gods have been lost to history while the Greek & Roman Gods have persevered.
This is a fairly complete collection, at least the most complete I’ve encountered, and introduces other Norse Gods besides the Big Three of Odin, Loki and Thor. If you’re a fan of the comics and Marvel movies you will know Sif, Balder, Heimdall and a few others but Gaiman highlights several other key players including Frey & Freya, the Dwarves and the Giants.
Gaiman begins with the basics-the creation of the universe and a description of the nine worlds as well as The Treasures of the Gods which describes how Thor’s hammer Mjollnir was created. I think my personal favorite essay, besides the exposition, was the Journey to the Land of the Giants which has Loki face fire incarnate, Thialfi race thought and Thor go against time as well as create the tide.
Loki is, in many ways, worse than you think. Most of the problems Thor, Odin and some of the lesser known Gods face are direct results of Loki’s tricks and lies. He gets what he deserves but not often enough. The story of The Master Builder was another favorite since it had two Norse go-tos: Loki did something stupid and Freya’s hand in marriage gets promised. Thanks to Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes from earlier this year I knew some of the stories, primarily that everyone wanted to marry Freya and her family didn’t particularly care about her feelings, but Gaiman does a much better job at retelling the myths. This is a pretty straightforward collection of Norse myths seasoned with a dash of Gaiman flair.
You don’t need to be a Gaiman fan to like Norse Mythology but it probably helps to be a mythology fan. In fact, if you’re looking for a stereotypical Gaiman fantasy adventure you’ll probably be disappointed. Also, I wish I had listened to this as an audio-book because it’s impossible to pronounce half the character names. It is equally difficult to keep track of everyone and their connections to one another but Gaiman provides a glossary in the back.