The moment I first saw the Norse Mythology book I was instantly transported to my childhood – during that time I was charmed by the Greek mythology. I remember having two books with short stories – one book about the gods, the other book about the heroes (for my Romanian readers: Legendele Olimpului de Alexandru Mitru). Fascinated by Hera (queen of the gods) and Athena (goddess of wisdom), I was reading and re-reading their stories, imagining how life would look like on Mount Olympus. Back to the Nordic gods now!

Norse Mythology in a nutshell

The Norse Mythology is a collection of stories of Nordic gods, giants, elves and other beings. According to the myths, all beings live in Nine Worlds that are centered around the tree Yggdrasil. For example, gods live in Asgard, giants live in Jotunheim, and humans live in Midgard. With so many worlds and types of beings, you can only imagine there’s a lot happening in Yggdrasil 🙂

However, at the center of most stories is the famous trio of gods: the all-father Odin, the mischievous Loki, and the mightiest Thor. As you read the stories you find out, among others …

  • how Thor got his magic hammer Mjölnir
  • what gods eat to maintain themselves immortal (hint: an apple a day keeps the doctor away)
  • why the end of the world – Ragnarok – is only a new beginning
Yggdrasil, as depicted in The Book of Runes by Frances Melville (2003)

Overall impression

I enjoyed a lot reading the Norse mythology stories! The writing style of Gaiman is very readable; also, stories are quite short, so you can easily read an end-to-end story before going to sleep or early in the morning.

When it comes to the Norse beings … well, there’s a lot of conflict between gods and giants, female beings (of all kinds) are mostly depicted as prizes to be won through challenges, and there’s a lot of misbehaviour and cunningness. Not an ideal world, but I think each story can be seen as a cautionary tale.

Most stories are inspired by the Poetic Edda – a collection of anonymous poems in Old Norse, written around 1200.

Norse Mythology borrowed from Bookster

My favourite stories from Norse Mythology

If I were to choose two favourite stories from Gaiman’s book, then I would choose “Freya’s unusual wedding” and “The master builder”.

“Freya’s unusual wedding” was actually quite funny, I remember giggling while reading it 🙂 It involved two gods dressed up as women (one of them as bride) and a giant who actually believed them!

The other favourite story, “The master builder”, focused on a situation where the gods (especially Loki) found a witty way to solve a tricky problem without actually breaking the rules.

Ragnarok series on Netflix

If you want to discover the Norse mythology not by reading, there’s a TV series that I recommend: Ragnarok. It blends some Norse mythology aspects with the contemporary world.

It also contains a bit of teenage drama – not my favourite, but also not a big deal when watching the episodes.

Image from Imdb

Wrap-up

I recommend reading Norse Mythology if you are interested in ancient myths or if you want to discover the Nordic stories that survived for hundreds of years. It would also be an amazing present for a friend passionate about cultures of the world or a friend who moved (recently) to a Nordic country.

‘Till next time … happy reading!

Georgiana


Cover picture adapted from the book cover of Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

6 thoughts on “The tales of Nordic gods, giants, elves and other beings: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman (book review)

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