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“Remarkable.… Gaiman has provided an enchanting contemporary interpretation of the Viking ethos.”—Lisa L. Hannett, Atlantic
Neil Gaiman, long inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction, presents a bravura rendition of the Norse gods and their world from their origin though their upheaval in Ragnarok.
In Norse Mythology, Gaiman stays true to the myths in envisioning the major Norse pantheon: Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki—son of a giant—blood brother to Odin and a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator.
Gaiman fashions these primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. Through Gaiman’s deft and witty prose, these gods emerge with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to duping others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.
Having already appropriated Odin and Loki for his novel American Gods, Gaiman turns his restless imagination to a retelling of Norse folklore (a youthful interest of his). He begins by introducing us to the three main mythological figures: Odin, the highest and oldest of the gods; his son, Thor, who makes up in brawn what he lacks in brains; and Loki, offspring of giants and a wily trickster. In a series of stories, we learn how Thor acquired his famous hammer, Mjollnir, how Odin tricked a giant into building a wall around Asgard, the home of the gods, how Loki helped Thor retrieve his hammer from the ogre that had stolen it, and how a visit to the land of the giants resulted in the humbling of Thor and Loki. In most of the stories, a consistent dynamic rules as one god tries to get something over on another god, but novelist that he is, Gaiman also provides a dramatic continuity to these stories that takes us from the birth of the gods to their blood-soaked twilight. Employing dialogue that is anachronistically current in nature, Gaiman has great fun in bringing these gods down to a human level. Like John Gardner in Grendel, a classic retelling of Beowulf, and Philip Pullman in his rewriting of Hans Christian Andersen stories, Gaiman takes a well-worn subject and makes it his own.