Introducing an instant classic - master storyteller Neil Gaiman presents a dazzling version of the great Norse myths.
Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales. In Norse Mythology, Gaiman fashions primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds; delves into the exploits of the deities, dwarves, and giants; and culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and the rebirth of a new time and people. Gaiman stays true to the myths while vividly reincarnating Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin's son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki, the son of a giant, a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator. From Gaiman's deft and witty prose emerge the gods 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.
©2017 Neil Gaiman (P)2017 HarperCollins Publishers
"Neil Gaiman's retelling of Norse myths is destined to become a classic for both his sure-footed stories and his captivating performance.... The tales seem timeless, and Gaiman's melodic narration so strongly echoes the oral tradition of myths that it's as if the narrator has stepped out of the stories themselves." (AudioFile)
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
Near the end of the only romantic happy ending story in Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology (2017), Gaiman makes a brilliantly ironic aside: "Their wedding was blessed, and some say their son, Fjolnir, went on to become the first king of Sweden. He would drown in a vat of mead late one night, hunting in the darkness for a place to piss."
In his introduction, Gaiman says that "I've tried my best to retell these myths and stories as accurately as I can, and as interestingly as I can. . . . I hope that they paint a picture of a world and a time" of "long winter nights" and "the unending daylight of midsummer," when people "wanted to know . . . what the rainbow was, and how to live their lives, and where bad poetry comes from." He achieves his aims.
Gaiman also explains what fascinated him as a boy about the myths: they are full of tragic heroes and villains "with their own doomsday: Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods, the end of it all." In both Norse and Greek mythologies the gods and goddesses are powerful, flawed beings who embody human traits or forces of nature and give appropriate justice or unexpected trouble, and who appear in stories that feature origins, metamorphoses, and ethical messages on hospitality, oath keeping, and the like. But in the Greek myths, the main gods and goddesses just keep going.
Gaiman first introduces the three main "players" of the myths: Odin ("highest and oldest of all the gods," the wise, far-seeing, "all-father"), Thor (the thunder god, son of Odin, strongest, simplest, and most violent of the gods), and Loki (blood-brother of Odin, the supreme trickster, father of monsters, maker of an interesting but unsafe world). He relates the creation of the nine worlds and gods and giants. And then he tells thirteen stories. (Though they should be read in sequence, each story can stand alone, for Gaiman repeats a few details when referring to something in a later story that he's already introduced in an earlier one.)
The first two tales ("Mimir's Head and Odin's Eye" and "The Treasures of the Gods") detail how Odin got extra wisdom and how Loki staged (and interfered with) a magical artifact competition between two teams of dwarves. Then follow an assortment of violent comedy fantasy stories like "The Master Builder" (a reckless bargain, an amazing builder, and some cross-species conception), "Freya's Unusual Wedding" (the theft of Thor's hammer and some comical cross-dressing), and "Hymir and Thor's Fishing Expedition" (an outrageous tall tale). Interspersed among those are an origin story "The Mead of the Poets" (war + spit + blood + honey + dwarves + sex + eagles = mead and bards), an ominous story "The Children of Loki" (the fates of Loki's monstrous kids), and a love story "The Story of Gerd and Frey" (even a god may fall in love with a giantess). Ending things are a tragedy ("The Death of Balder"), a punishment ("The Last Days of Loki"), and an apocalypse ("Ragnarok").
Before Norse Mythology, I read the beautifully illustrated D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths (1967) for children. I found that the humor, violence, imagination, pathos, and plots are essentially the same in both, but that Gaiman gives more emotional, psychological, and physical detail. For example, what the D'Aulaires write in one sentence ("The mead made the gnomes feel so grand that they recklessly killed an old jotun, and when his wife came looking for him, they slew her too"), Gaiman develops for pages. Gaiman adds to the myths his own vision and "joy and creation."
Gaiman writes more violence, scatology, and sex than the D'Aulaires do, as when he recounts Thor doing what he does best ("Methodically, enthusiastically, one after the next, Thor killed all the giants of the waste, until the earth ran black and red with their blood"), or Odin escaping as an eagle ("Odin blew some of the mead out of his behind, a splattery wet fart of foul-smelling mead right in Suttung's face, blinding the giant and throwing him off Odin's trail"), or Odin seducing a giantess (nude bodies and nuzzling). His renewal finale, when golden chess pieces representing the gods, Loki, and the giants are found lying scattered in the grass, is more numinous and less Christian than the D'Aulaires'. He also belongs to the contemporary villain revision trend, making Loki and some monsters (like his children Hel and Fenris) a little more understandable and sympathetic than do the D'Aulaires.
In dialogue Gaiman writes a few jarring modern idioms, like "The temperature was all over the place" and "What kind of woman do you think I am?" And he tends to overuse fairy tale superlatives (e.g., "the gods drink the finest ale there ever was or ever will be" vs. the original Poetic Edda's "And now the gods/drink good beer").
But his writing is wonderful. His style features rich Norsy alliteration and description, like "a murky mist that cloaked everything hung heavily." He writes apt and evocative similes, like "She laughed as loudly as a calving glacier." He's often funny, e.g., "He tossed them [a pair of nefarious dwarfs], still bound and soaking, into the bottom of the boat, where they wriggled uncomfortably, like a couple of bearded lobsters." He writes a terrifying apocalypse: "The misty sky will split apart with the sound of children screaming." He's a master of the neat parenthesis, like, "(that was Naglfar, the Death Ship, made from the untrimmed fingernails of the dead)."
Gaiman is in fine fettle reading his audiobook. His Loki, Thor, Fenris, giants, and ogre lord are great. His wit, enthusiasm, and pauses and emphases are engaging. When a pretty giantess says to Odin, "my father would get quite irritable if he thought that I was giving away his mead to every good looking stranger who penetrated this mountain fastness," Gaiman pauses archly after "penetrated" to make us expect "penetrated his daughter." He paints aural illustrations the equivalent of the D'Aulaires' wonderful pictures. Listening to Gaiman's audiobook was a pleasure.
This was true story telling. I wasn't studying, or researching, nor was I seeking a bedtime story. I was enriched! "Were you not entertained!?" YES, YES, I was entertained.
I had about... six hours of hard yard work to do (flood repair), shoveling mud and rock. But with this book, I battled the mud and rock and then drank and feasted in Valhalla!
It was the perfect length. I was fortunate enough to listen in one "sitting". The short stories were great pausing points for water breaks and lunch. They would be good for stopping points if you couldn't listen in one sitting.
N. Gaiman is a great narrator, OMGs, his Thor voice is excellent! If I hadn't been baTTling the rocks, mud and rain, I'd have been sitting by the fire, drinking a pint of ale, listening to Uncle Neil tell us all how Thor got his hammer. His voice is that familiar story teller in your head and heart.
Lastly, I'm terrible with names, really. About five mins in, I thought I'm gonna be lost with these lesser known Gods. But trust the author/narrator. You'll remember who you need to, when you need to.
I go now, in search of the Chess Board of the Gods... Etsy?
Aspiring author, classic literature scholar, fantasy and horror junkie, all wrapped up in a cute little package.
No one would argue Neil Gaiman's talent as a story teller, and this collection is no different. The stories are retold in a way that is conses and orderly almost giving the illusion of continuity to these tales. Gaiman doesn't change too much but does make things clearer from the original Prose and Poetic Edda tellings. It is clear that he has done his research far beyond just the Edda, and has also researched the physical folk tales, as well.
His voice acting of this book is very satisfying, and I would have no one else do it. I am quickly becoming a very large Gaiman fan, even though I only started reading his works less than a year ago.
I looked for a Norse Mythology book for a long time and some friend recommend me this one and it's really good. The storys inside are really fun and interesting to hear. The narrating is really good and you don't get confused or tired.
Definitely. I read an advance copy of the book before hearing this, and I enjoy the experience of learning about a body of lore I had remained unfamiliar with for far too long in my life. Neil Gaiman is at ease with the corpus after many years of immersion, from his boyhood on.
The retellings of myth by such as Robert Graves or Edith Hamilton for the Greeks, or the Celts by Frank Delaney or Marie Heaney. That is, they make the stories into our own diction, and they encourage as Gaiman does to relate them in turn to each other under the stars.
The ending. Terrible and unfortunately relevant, in an era of melting icecaps and "sunny day flooding." Ragnorok is horrible, and the apocalyptic climax betters the stories in Revelation.
Yes, but two or three are more likely as it's nearly seven hours. Neil Gaiman takes up a rather mid-Atlantic accent and the narrative pace is steady. It's appropriate for the effect.
Recommended for a family, as the stories teach us about trickery and truth, honesty and betrayal. Not sure if the pantheon are role models all, but it's instructive to consider gods and goddesses as if archetypes from one's culture, and less supernatural and apart from people. The name recognition Gaiman holds will surely find new audiences for these ancient quests.
Neil Gaiman did a truly great job with making the Norse myths more palatable for persons in the 21st century. If you have been interested in the Norse, or even if you enjoy Mr. Gaiman's writings, I highly encourage you to pick up a copy of Norse Mythology as it is written well, written with respect for the source matterial, and just outright entertaining.
Editor at Audible -- I like self-dev, Sci-Fi, and Fiction that leans a little bit towards literary.
Norse Mythology. Neil Gaiman. A project he’s been working on for 7 years, narrated by Gaiman himself. This book made me weak in the knees. Neil really lives this stuff, and you can tell he has a passion for the subject matter.
As he points out in the prologue, myths are an oral tradition and the best thing about them is how they change and evolve with each telling. And so they do here as Gaiman gives these ancient cultural stories a divine sense of character, and voices the plethora of monsters, humans, gods, and giants exceptionally well.
I swear, the moment you start listening to these intricate and enchanting tales you won’t want to leave the world that Neil has so deliberately crafted to be relatable, visionary, and entertaining.
I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^
"Because," said Thor, "When something goes wrong, the first thing I think is, it is Loki's fault. It saves a lot of time."
- Neil Gaiman, Norse Mythology
Neil Gaiman telling Norse myths about Loki, Thor, Odin, Balder, etc., seems kinda right. Gaiman is the master of giving myths new life. He adapts, modernized, bastardizes, stretches and pulls them with his novels. Sometimes it works well (American Gods, etc) and other times not so well, but always it is entertaining. I wouldn't consider myself an uber-Gaiman fan, but I do enjoy his stuff. I'm also more of a Greek and Roman myth man myself, so I'm not as familiar with the stories, characters, and -- well -- myths of the North. But this was a good introduction. It was certainly done with Gaiman's pluck and voice. I full expect that Gaiman will turn out a couple more of these. My guess is we will see in the future Gaiman retelling:
1. Greek & Roman Myths
2. Celtic Myths
3. Egyptian Myths
4. American Indian Myths
5. Japanese Myths
6. Mayan Myths
He could totally milk it. His Norton publishers would love it. They could be sold individually or in a nicely boxed set. Libraries would buy it. Schools too. Think of what a long tail Edith Hamilton's book of myths had or Thomas Bulfinch.
Neil Gaiman is a great writer and he is also a fantastic narrator.
These myths were very familiar to me (I'm from Norway) but Gaiman has breathed life into these old tales.
We get action filled stories, cynic sarcastic comedy and epic tales about the beginning and the end of the world.
A lot of the names and phrases in the myths has seeped into Norwegian language, it was fun to discover their origins.
I was totally immersed. A great, great listen!
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