Norse mythology has always been one of the foundations used for most fictional stories in our time. I grew up playing tons of video games that were based on these myths without even realizing that they were based on the mythology in the first place. For instance, Odin as a summon in Final Fantasy franchise, Einherjar that were taken to Valhalla by the Valkyrie in preparation for Ragnarok in Valkyrie Profile series, or Yggdrasil, the tree of life that were depicted in Breath of Fire III but I won’t bore you with these countless video games adaptations. Let’s do the most famous example, Thor and Loki from Marvel Universe. This franchise is so damn popular that every time the name Thor and Loki were mentioned, I can’t help but envisioned Chris Hemsworth and Toms Hiddleston as the canon facial features, flaunting their long hair everywhere like they’re in a shampoo commercial. (No idea why, they just do.)
Picture: Hair of the Gods
*Phew, got a bit sidetracked with my review there.*
Anyway, my point is, Norse mythology is a really important source of material for our current media entertainment and I admit, it has always been one of my favorite mythologies along with Japanese, Greek and Rome mythology.
Norse Mythology is an EXACT retelling of Poetic Edda, the source material of the myth, which is already fantastic in its own way. Neil Gaiman did a great job in adapting the source into a collection of short stories with his own words that made it enjoyable to read, especially for beginner to the myth but for me who’s been fed with this myth for almost 20 years, I wish there’s something new to be found here. For those of you who don’t know, the basic outline of Norse Mythology is about the creation of the worlds until the final battle between the Gods and the creatures that will destroy the world. In case someone who doesn’t know about the myth stumbled upon this review, I won’t tell you about the battle itself other than in my opinion, it is epic. This picture below shows an example of the kind of battle you’ll find in Ragnarok.
I find Neil’s retelling enjoyable to read but I do have two main problems with it.
-First, as I mentioned before, for those of you who’ve known about this myth already, you won’t find anything new here, this is an EXACT retelling that it almost feel like a copy and paste to me. I came into this book with the expectation that it will be a full novel with Neil’s own rendition of the myth but nope, you can actually go to Wikipedia, search Norse Mythology and voila, you’ll find the story told here.
-Secondly, this is a really expensive book for its content. It cost $20 where I live and for a 2 to 3 hour read of a story I’ve heard about almost my whole life is really not worth it. I received this book from my friend otherwise I’ll feel so robbed personally.
“The Norse myths are the myths of a chilly place, with long, long winter nights and endless summer days, myths of a people who did not entirely trust or even like their gods, although they respected and feared them.”
Overall, I personally still think that this book is a great introduction to the myth. The original source, the Poetic Edda languages are hard to dive into and it’s more of an info dump compared to this. Despite not finding anything original here, I still find it enjoyable and good to read.
I definitely recommend this to any Norse Mythology beginner, Neil Gaiman did a great job in this retelling and it’s so easy to understand the words he wrote. Plus, Norse Mythology is one of the best myths out there. You owe it to yourself to read it if you’re interested in knowing more about the original tale of Odin, Thor, Loki, Valkyrie, Balder, Fenrir, Mjollnir and more names that I'll leave for yourself to find out.
Picture: Norse Mythology by Marc Simonetti