I’ve been meaning to write more about the books I’m reading. I used to do that a lot but then I fell into this pit where it’s been hard to find a book to enjoy. Hard to find time, the dedication or the enthusiasm. Never thought I’d say that. But I do stumble upon interesting books from time to time, and I’m always reading and so I’ve been meaning to start writing a bit about it. I don’t do reviews, but I do like sharing my experience with a book. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? And so it seems fitting that I start with this one, doesn’t it?
Because you see If I were to make a list of things I draw influences from the Norse Mythology would be high on the list. Snorri’s stories of the Nordic gods aren’t just an Icelandic treasure, but they are also stories told of mighty gods tongue in cheek. I’ve always loved those stories and secretly resented the big comic companies “stealing” Thor’s thunder without keeping ANY of the original characteristics. Thor has a hammer but he is so serious as a superhero and Loki isn’t mischievous and beautiful but just evil and bitter. There is nothing left of the glee of the original stories.
But far be it from me to begrudge someone their influences. I admire people who aren’t afraid to go into old texts and find inspiration there, and I like hearing a good story re-told with something new in mind. I just think the superheroes have been made stereotypical and they completely lack humour, as far as I’ve been able to delve into the comic world (which isn’t very far).
So when I heard that Neil Gaiman was writing a book about Norse Mythology I was sceptical. Neil Gaiman is a writer with a big name, if he does something with these stories people are going to believe that’s exactly the way it’s supposed to be. He was holding in his hand something very dear to me, these are the stories I was told as a kid, stories we read in school and stories I since read regularly just because the storytelling is so different from what we’re used to today and the mythology is so delightful.
So I decided not to read Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. Didn’t want to know. And then I saw it on the audiobook site I subscribe to and decided, reluctantly, to give it a go.
It was hard to get used to Gaiman pronouncing the names of all the gods. I cringe still when I hear him say some of their names. But I understand his choices there, he knows how they are “supposed” to be pronounced but if he hadn’t made their names a bit more Anglo-Saxon everyone BUT ME would be cringing. So that’s something I can put up with though I do feel the urge to re-say their name every time, just to mentally “correct” him.
It took a few of the very familiar stories for me to get it. It took at least two stories before I understood…
He isn’t trying to make these stories his own. He is trying to re-tell them at the best of his ability, he is trying to share them with people who aren’t as familiar with them as I am. And let me tell you that he does it very well. These are the stories of the gleeful gods that I know so well, told with love and with dedication to the original texts (not just Snorri’s). Listening to him tell these stories I felt a little like I was getting the gods “back”, as if I ever lost them to the superhero franchise, and if I wasn’t getting them back then at least now these stories are accessible for people who haven’t heard them before and they are told with humour but also with the love they deserve. Trust someone like Gaiman to be able to do this, I actually didn’t think this was a balance walk anyone would be able to walk so well.
So I’m very happy to be able to warmly recommend this book. These are the stories of the Norse Gods, told tongue in cheek, Gaiman style, but also as I feel they are meant to be told, though Thor does protest too much to the women’s clothing, I’m sure he thought that was a fun thing to do…