I’m very excited to talk to you about the book Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman.
Confession: I have both a hardcover and paperback edition of this book. I had initially gotten the hardcover but found I never read it because it felt less practical to bring on my journey to school which is when I would typically read. So I one day bought a paperback copy at the airport when visiting my partner. (I may have been convinced by the reflective gold on black design) Later I found out there is also an audio version which is absolutely fantastic, spoken by the author himself! I liked to listen to it while wood-burning runes and such so here I am to tell you about these lovely books.
Hardcover, Paperback or Audio?
I personally tend to prefer hardcovers over paperbacks because they are sturdy and won’t break on me in my bag as easily, and remain in better state overtime. However, in this case, they are often very pretty and I don’t want them to get damaged by bringing them along in my bag full of other crap. Paperbacks I tend to care less about their state of being as I just expect them to get damaged more easily.
My edition had a dustcover and when removed it was nice black linen with gold pressed spine. The dustcover has gold details with a matte reflective quality and gold spine. My copy was A5 (21x14cm) sized but something about it makes it feel bigger. This edition also didn’t include the story note section in the back but did have a bit of extra decoration on the inside title page. (As seen below.)
It felt a bit too bulky to drag around to school to read in between classes, but it looks very cool! I’d say the hardcover is perfect if you leave it in the same room where you can treat it careful enough and are not bothered by the size.
This edition had a very silky finish, as well as very reflective metallic details which I love! It was easy to hold and read, not too big, and the bendiness of the cover helped with that. It was only slightly smaller than A5 (20x13cm). This will probably not stay as nice as it currently is the more I read it. I tend to reread and take notes with paperback books like these. Both the Paperback and Hardcover contain the same stories and a glossary, but this edition had a story note section in the back the hardcover didn’t have.
Audiobooks are, of course, great if you don’t like sitting down to read books. Alternatively, they are great to listen to while you do something else like let’s say cooking. And if you enjoy that then you’re in luck because Audible has it as an audiobook narrated by the author himself, Neil Gaiman. He does an amazing job at it so if an audiobook is something you enjoy, I highly recommend it. There have been versions of it on YouTube as well but last I checked they were removed so see for yourself if that’s still the case.
In the introduction, Neil mentions how the Gods are portrayed in the Marvel stories and how that is different from the myths. I actually liked that he included that bit as a lot of people is getting into Norse Mythology nowadays thanks to the Marvel films. For those that aren’t aware, no Odin isn’t Loki’s adoptive father, Odin and Loki are actually Blood-brothers, and Hella is actually Loki’s daughter. Just to name a few distinctions, hence why I liked that Neil touched on this bit in the introduction of the book.
This book is not a different translation of the Prose or Poetic Edda but does contain stories from both of these books. It is written in a manner that makes it easy to read and understand, and able to retell. It doesn’t contain all the Eddic stories but I do think it covers some very iconic ones. While I do think some myths told as well as others they still feel lacking when you know the original myths from the Edda, like Lokasenna, where Loki insults the gods. This is one story that was addressed in the notes in the back of the paperback, and it not being told as I had hoped might be more of a personal issue than anything else but I thought it worth to be mentioned.
Stories included as listed in the contents are:
- Before the beginning, and after
- Yggdrasil and the nine worlds
- Mimir’s head and Odin’s eye
- The treasures of the Gods
- The master builder
- The children of Loki
- Freya’s unusual wedding
- The mead of poets
- Thor’s journey to the land of the Giants
- The apples of immortality
- The story of Gerd and Frey
- Hymir and Thor’s fishing expedition
- The death of Balder
- The last days of Loki
- Ragnarok: The final destiny of the gods.
The paperback covers notes on the various stories included in the book, which state where the story came from (Prose or Poetic Edda, or both) and what changes he made to the story for his version as there are details that differ depending on which book and which translation you refer to. It’s a nice addition especially for students of the Norse Myth or Pagans to whom it matters to see how Neil got to tell his stories the way he did. It’s hard to say if his way of retelling is accurate as even translators don’t always agree with each other and we simply don’t know everything for sure.
In short, yes I recommend this book, especially as an introduction to Norse Mythology. It is beautifully written en easy enough to understand. Perfect for those who just want to read and enjoy the stories without going too deep into it, or those that wish to retell them to as bedtime stories for example (although not all stories are as suitable perhaps).
If you are a student or Norse pagan then I would recommend a copy that includes the notes in the back, and use it next to a copy of the Edda (Poetic is usually recommended over Prose). That way you can compare it to the different sources drawn from and what the difference could mean from a standpoint important to you. I’ll be reviewing my Poetic Edda somewhere in the future for those interested (not based on translated accuracy but more readability).
If you have any questions about this book, feel free to ask!