Book Review: “Norse Mythology” by Neil Gaiman

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

By this point, Neil Gaiman no doubt takes on whatever projects he wants to, and in this case he wanted to go back to the original sources of Norse Myths, and retell them.

I can’t speak to his use of the sources, but the result is a nice little collection, smooth and easy.

There is some interesting and beautiful material here, such as the idea of the Mead of Poetry. But mostly the stories are about theft, lies, revenge, and bad things happening to nice people. Bummers all around.

I think these stories may have been aimed at younger readers. There is some violence and dark material here, but it is handled very gingerly. I know Sensei Neil can go way, way darker than this. And he can go way, way, way more poetic.

And this would be a potential criticism of this book: the stories are fanciful, but there isn’t really much meat here. He hews closely to the spirit of his sources, which are incomplete and do not completely make sense. It’s hard to fathom the motives and actions of these gods and giants, and their magical powers are pretty arbitrary.

What do the gods and giants aim to do? Why is Loki such a nasty bit of work? How can supposedly far-seeing Odin be fooled so often?   Everyone seems to have astonishing magical powers, except when they don’t. For that matter, the dialog is dull and idiotic.

It’s baffling, dull, and depressing. No where near the best of Gaiman.

Still, Neil Gaiman on his worst day is still readable.

  1. Neil Gaiman, Norse Mythology, New York, W. W. Norton & Company, 2017.


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