Monday, May 15, 2017

Audiobook Review: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Title: Norse Mythology
Author: Neil Gaiman
Narrator: Neil Gaiman
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
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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 emerges the gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to dupe others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again. 

I have always loved mythology! First it was Egyptian Mythology throughout my childhood, followed by Greek Mythology in high school, and Roman Mythology in college. I've always been interested in Norse Mythology, but too daunted by it to dive in. When I saw that Neil Gaiman was releasing a retelling of Norse Myths I knew I had to have it! Stumbling across the audiobook narrated by Neil himself was even better!

First of all, it was impossible to listen to Neil read this and not imagine these guys:

Of course, there were so many other characters in these stories, but these two were by far my favorites! Embarrassingly, most everything I know about Thor and Loki comes from Marvel, so it was awesome to get so much background about the characters they're based on. Thor was absolutely hilarious! His ego is massive and I was constantly cracking up at the ridiculous ways he got out of situations (e.g. assuming a goddess would marry a giant to get his hammer back and then crossdressing instead when she refused). Loki was also a fantastic character, but (maybe not surprisingly) much more intelligent and crafty than Thor. His children were especially fascinating!

Each story was included separately and broken into chapters. They didn't necessarily intertwine like a normal novel, but there were elements that wouldn't be understood without reading previous stories. Each story could be read individually, but I do think that reading the entire book chronologically is the best way to go with this one, at least on the first read! While I've never read any of these myths before, I've read that Neil Gaiman stayed very true to the source material while expanding upon it and making it his own. All of the stories certainly had the feeling of classic mythology!

Some of my favorites: 

  • The Treasures of the Gods, in which Loki steals Thor's wife's hair and tries to get a replacement
  • The Children of Loki, in which Odin is worried about being murdered by Loki's wolf kid 
  • Himir and Thor's Fishing Expedition, in which Thor goes fishing and almost sinks the boat
  • The Last Days of Loki, in which I became depressed and cried a little

Neil did a fantastic job of keeping all these stories interesting, but they were still somewhat simplistic as myths generally are. There were moments when I was a little bored, I'll admit, but Norse Mythology fully lived up to my expectations! Best of all, I learned so much about the gods and locations! All of the Norse gods became fully fleshed out characters through these stories and I'm honestly a little excited to go see Thor: Ragnarok knowing so much more about this mythology than my husband! (Ha!)

As always, Neil Gaiman is an incredibly narrator! I wish so much that he'd narrate books other than his own so I could hear him talk more... I wasn't totally sure what to expect from Norse Mythology but I ended up really loving it! I definitely recommend this book (and the audiobook in particular) to any mythology lover!