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Editorial Reviews

Editors Select, February 2017 - Norse Mythology. Neil Gaiman. A project he's been working on for seven 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 tales 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. —Michael, Audible Editor

Publisher's Summary

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

Critic Reviews

"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)
"In 'Norse Mythology,' Gaiman brings voice to the old myths so viscerally that listening to the audiobook every night for a week, I thought my bedroom might explode into Valhalla.... In fact the entire Norse pantheon, including dwarves and giants and demons, plays out as vividly as a novel or film.... Hearing the great myths spoken in a language from my present with a trace of ancient history physically broke me open, Gaiman's voice bringing the characters to life." (The New York Times Book Review)

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Welcome to Valhalla

I didn't know much about Norse Mythology, aside from Marvel comics, so I decided this would be a good crash course. Suffice it to say, I got my money's worth. The stories collected in here are absolutely glorious. If you at all like mythology, you owe it to yourself to check out this volume.

As a bonus, Neil Gaiman is just as fantastic a narrator as he is writer. What more could you want? Beyond highly recommended!

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

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A Comedy-Tragedy of Gods Giants Dwarfs & Monsters

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.

131 of 141 people found this review helpful

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classic story telling at its best

easily digestible, Neil Gaiman brings north mythology to life. listening to him narrate is like listening to an enchanting tell told by a fireside.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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I battled yard work, then drank & feasted in Valhalla!

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?

185 of 255 people found this review helpful

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I loved it but....

I really loved these stories, written and read by an expert story teller it was great! However, 6 hours?! I want more, I waited for so long and it's over so soon.

85 of 125 people found this review helpful

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loved it

Neil Gaiman is my favorite storyteller. His style is so conversational that I feel like he Is making up the story right out of his head for my own personal bedtime story.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Norse "history"

I find "creation stories" and "mythology" fascinating as it gives a view into what things were like in the time of stories. This book was an interesting spin in those stories and added some depth that I didn't know.

I especially liked the way that it was read in such a friendly fireplace chat manner.

7 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Good entertainment

This book gave me exactly what I expected - a well-written account of a handful selected Norse mythology stories.

Given how much humor there is in Norse mythology I don't expect it to be that hard to write at least somewhat entertaining stories. However, the author of this book, Neil Gaiman, does have an exceptional ability to make the characters come alive. When you have finished this book, you will know what kind of creature the cunning and mischievous Loke is. You will also wonder why the Gods keep their trust in him given that he is the cause of pretty much all misfortune. Thor, in contrast, is very simple minded and it seems that the only thing he has going for him is his strength and his hammer.

My favorite story in the book is the one where Thor, to retrieve his stolen hammer, must dress up as Freja and pretend to marry a giant. The giant doesn't really know what to think when Thor begins to drink liters of Mead and eat several whole goats, and it is up to Loke to convince the daft giant that Freja is doing it because she is sooo in love.

There is plenty other entertaining stories. So if you are looking to become a little bit more familiar with Norse mythology or if you just want to a book that you can sit back and enjoy then this is an excellent choice!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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The Way the Sagas Should Be Experienced

Since a visit to Iceland years ago, I have had a fascination with Norse history. I've consumed histories, historical novels and of course the sagas. The sagas themselves are a bit hard to read given that they were never intended to be read in the first place, they were primary oral traditions until the 12/13th century. Gaiman's book brings the ultimate sagas to life, the sagas of the gods. His narration was great and it was a relaxing experience to just sit back, sip a tall whiskey and enjoy the experience.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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An excellent take on the mythology of the Norse

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.

26 of 39 people found this review helpful

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  • Maud-Ellen Berge-Venter
  • 05-20-17

fabulous!To be heard again and again! And again!

The kids loved it too! Great for the whole family! Gaiman is pleasant to listen to :-)