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Book Review: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

by Louisa Chisholm-Kelly




Released in 2017, this is a book that comes with a little controversy within some parts of the pagan community. It has been accused of oversimplifying the mythology, and of rehashing something that didn't need it. On the other side, Neil Gaiman is credited with bringing the mythology to a new, much wider audience.


Gaiman begins with an explanation as to why he chose to write this book; a childhood comic book fascination leading to an adult obsession. He also goes on to explain that he has used various translations of the Poetic Eddas (see the bonus information) as his source material, purposefully avoiding any other influences. This was a truly excellent path to choose. It separates this book from the many others, and actively works to remove misinformation and opinion.


After a quick summation of the three main players, Odin, Thor, and Loki, Gaiman gets stuck in.


"Before the beginning there was nothing..."


Those that are acquainted with the mythology will quickly find themselves sucked back into the old familiar tales. For those that are reading them for the first time, Gaiman's writing style is easy to follow, and perfectly designed to suck you into this new world. The individual tales are relatively short, perfect reading length for a small escape, or a bedtime story for all ages.


Personally, I understand the criticism levelled at this book. It has been simplified, and for some that was unnecessary. However, I disagree. I think Gaiman has been sympathetic with his interpretation and while it has been simplified, that is what makes it so accessible and allows it to reach a much wider audience.


If you are new to the Norse Mythology, wanting to re-investigate, read for pleasure, or read to someone else, this version is for you!



Bonus Information:


Our knowledge of the North Mythologies comes from The Prose Edda and The Poetic Edda.


The Prose Edda were compiled by Snorri Sturluson, an Icelandic Christian scholar, in the 13th Century.


The Poetic Edda, also known as The Elder Edda, is a collection of Old Norse poems primarily from the Icelandic mediaeval manuscript known as the Codex Regius.


For those that want to investigate further I wholeheartedly suggest reading both. They are not easy to read, but there are many versions of both available, some with study guides and explanations included. I like the Penguin Classics books.


The Prose Edda: Tales from Norse Mythology (Penguin Classics) - Jesse Byock


The Elder Edda: A Book of Viking Lore (Penguin Classics) - Andy Orchard


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