I know that this book has been around for a while, but I haven’t found time to pick it up until now. I have to say, it’s not exactly what I was expecting, but not in a bad way.
I’m not terribly familiar with the ins and outs of Norse Mythology, but I’m aware enough at least to not use the Marvel films as a guide! I know J. R. R. Tolkien was greatly influenced by Norse mythology, and I think this may be the reason I was expecting this book to read a bit like his Unfinished Tales. I should have paid attention to the actual author being Neil Gaiman instead because these stories are narrated in a much lighter manner, reminiscent of a fairy tale. It’s an incredibly easy, almost relaxing read. (Hence, the bath.)
The book is also packed to the brim with droll humour. I was initially attributing this to Gaiman, but the further I read the book, the less certain I was that this was author influence and not something inherent in the mythology itself. The Norse myths are outlandish and frequently vulgar. The origin of bad poetry, for example, is due to Odin farting in the face of a pursuing giant. And the Gods themselves think comedy of the highest order involves watching Loki tie a goat to his dong.
Loki is easily the standout character. Even if he can be an absolute prick, he’s still the most entertaining one to read about. I think Gaiman loves him too because he gets all the best little authorial asides. One thing the myths share with the Marvel films is the frequent pairing of Loki with Thor, to great comedic effect. Poor Thor might be one of the strongest of the gods, but he’s presented here as a bit of a dim bulb that Loki can bounce off. (And yes, I did enjoy using the Thor: Ragnarok portrayals of these two as my mental images of them. It was even funnier that way)
But one of the most surprising things for me was the characterisation of Odin. Odin, I thought, was meant to be the All-Father and wisest of the gods, but he doesn’t act that way. It wasn’t until I was halfway through the book I had a small revelation about Odin. He and Loki are half-brothers. Odin acts the way he does because he’s nearly a big a troll as Loki is. He’s not getting Thor to pop on a wedding dress and pretend to marry an ogre because he thinks it’s a wise course of action.
He’s doing it because he thinks it’s bloody hilarious.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and can see now why Neil Gaiman might be enamoured with the Norse Myths. My only disappointment is that it’s so short! If Gaiman ever feels the need to go back and work on a second volume, he’s very welcome to do so.