This post is entirely about a book, Neil gaiman’s Norse Mythology. Not a review, but just the feelings that came after reading the book. This is going to be a long one. Ignore the text if you’re not fond of reading long texts and descriptions, but at your own loss.
Before I start saying anything about this book, I must confess that I read any book from cover to cover. From its index to glossary, I read everything. Be it a storybook, fiction or fantasy or thriller or a textbook even.
There are not many books that will offer you something unusual in the preface or in the foreword itself. And there are some, that are exceptions. Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology falls in the second category. I picked the book up at around 8 A.M in the morning and started reading the introduction… And lost the track of time and the count when I realized an hour later that I have read and reread the introduction itself 3 times in a row.
Thereafter, I started turning the pages. Gaiman introduced The all-father Odin, the mighty Thor, and the treacherous Loki as the key players in the mythical universe of the warrior race known to us as the Vikings. Might mislead you to believe that Norse mythology revolves around these three characters, but that’s not the case.
I have often heard people say that Gaiman has the most consistent writing style and it follows a pattern that it has the ability to easily attract the attention of the reader… But, I beg to differ. It’s not the writing style of Gaiman. It’s the person himself. Gaiman is not just a writer, rather a crafty storyteller who knows what he is doing.
I remember reading one of Gaiman’s short fictions- A Study in Emerald- the great detective Sherlock Holmes met the universe of H. P Lovecraft, that is full of mystery and horror and unreal. Gaiman writes the story in rather a manner that would make you feel both the Lovecraft-ian thrill and the classic Holmes adventure as it feels when you read the study in scarlet probably the first time. And again, when you read Stardust, the pace, the tempo and the style changes. Then what makes reading Gaiman’s works so pleasing? What makes the stories to grab your senses and attention in a way that you can not think about putting down the book before you have finished it?
No. Gaiman’s writing style varies and it changes according to the need of the story. It changes according to your pace. The language is used in a way that at some moment you can actually guess what the author was thinking, and at times you can feel exactly what the author was feeling, all the while having your own freedom to interpret the text, the messages in a way that you can relate to. I guess that’s where lies the success of a good storyteller.
My interest in myths and folklore is age old. Been reading them when I was just a naive brat, and listening to them even before that. Norse mythology and its stories weren’t new to me. As I grew up, I discovered works like Ragnarok by none other than A. S Byatt and enjoyed that equally. And reading Gaiman’s Norse Mythology somehow completes the circle.
It shows Norse gods as not gods, but as humans, humans with feelings and good side and bad side. Odin’s wiser side and selfishness together with his compassion when he deals with Loki’s children. The unexpected and unnatural bond between him and Hel, Gaiman explained that bond with ease and that’s one among the best parts of the book. Thor is not just a mighty hero, but at times stupid and a person who oversimplifies things and a hothead. And Loki. Oh! How he portrayed Loki is a sheer piece of brilliance. You resent him and at the same time, you admire his intelligence and a childlike attitude full of boasting and mischievous traits. I used to dislike Loki for all the troubles he had created. But not now. You love him and you hate him. And you realize that no person is all good or all bad. Everyone has two sides and Loki was not an exception. Nor were the other gods. Tyr must mention Tyr, who used to adore Loki’s second child-Fenrir born from the union of Loki and Angrboda, Fenrir was not some wild wolf. He was Tyr’s cousin and a friend, or at least could have been… Only if the conspiration of the gods born from their fear could be avoided. The loss, the pain, and the foolhardiness it’s all there in Norse mythology.
Gaiman’s more descriptive works such as The American Gods gets boring at times in the middle of a reading, and to be honest American Gods is a book I have not been able to finish, but that’s a con you won’t find in Norse Mythology. Picked it up, finished it and started writing this while the memory is still fresh, cherishing the stories told with a passion that only someone with a deep love for myths and folklore would be able to understand.
No matter who you are, how old are you at this age, what language you speak or comfortable with, I would insist you heartily to grab a copy of this book and read it from cover to cover as I did. You will not get disappointed, that’s a promise.
As for me, I will do as Gaiman insists in his introduction. Make the stories my own and re-tell them to anyone who is willing to listen. After all, that’s the point of reading good stories, isn’t it?