Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. Book review

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman, Bloomsbury Publishing, PB, 282pp, £8.99

Reviewed by Steve Dean

Something a bit different this time from Mr Gaiman. It’s pretty much what the title says it is, a collection of short stories taken from Norse myth and legend. Now, obviously, there’s nothing new here, apart from the way the author has decided to present the stories. The stories aren’t so much retold but edited versions of existing works. I must add that in this case it isn’t a bad thing, these stories have been around along time, but here they’re collected together and made more readable to a modern audience. That’s not to say they’ve been cleaned up in any way.

After a lengthy introduction, we have a short section on the main characters; Odin, Thor and Loki. Yes, there are many more Norse gods, and I found this section sadly lacking. Then we get to the stories themselves. There are fifteen in all, starting at the beginning and ending at the end, which is my personal preference for the format of a book. What I mean is it starts with the birth of the gods and ends at Ragnarok. A short and useful glossary follows the stories, and some notes explaining the source of each of the stories.

If you already know a fair amount about Norse mythology, this book probably isn’t for you. You’ll have heard it all before, probably in several different versions. If you know a small amount, or nothing at all and wish to know more, this volume is perfect for you. It’s not too heavy or deep, it doesn’t go on for several volumes, and yet it covers the main points and dramatis personae very nicely. It would be particularly useful to give to a youngster who has read the comics and watched the many (so many!) related superhero films, if only to show them the source material and prove their generation didn’t invent it.

Overall, and despite it being more of a hobby piece, I enjoyed reading it and learned quite a lot. I would definitely recommend it. It’s a change of pace and a quality product in a rising mire of dumbing down and self-published dross.