When I was a little girl, I was completely obsessed with mythology. Greek, Roman (or Greek with different names, because Rome was nothing if not unoriginal), Norse, Egyptian, Indian, Native American, Japanese, Russian, etc, were all equally interesting to me. I wanted to know what ancient civilizations believed and why, and how those beliefs still influenced their culture. My faith was important to me and heavily influenced how I viewed the world, so why wouldn’t I be interested in what so heavily influenced other people groups throughout history? As a fourth grader, I was teaching short mythology lessons to junior-high kids before state testing. I loved to learn, and the natural overflow of that love was teaching others. Even then, I always included a segment on Judeo-Christian beliefs, so I could share what I believed as I had shared what ancients believed. I cut my teeth on Edith Hamilton’s Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes, Bulfinch’s Mythology, most of Joseph Campbell’s mythology books, and more.
There was one problem, though. Even though mythology books held incredibly interesting myths, they were generally conveyed like research papers instead of stories. They put forth the tales, but the telling of those tales was generally severely lacking. That was not at all the case with Gaiman’s addition to the mythology genre. He brought in his natural storytelling and breathed new life into the Norse mythos. The book seems small, but writing something of this magnitude was completely outside of his norm, and required more research and tighter restrictions on how that research was interpreted that most novelists ever have to worry about. I respect what he did here immensely, and am excited that now, when a kid develops a love of mythology, they’ll have access to tales well told.
The adventures of Odin, Thor, and Loki were a pleasure to read. There were a lot of myths that I had forgotten about or never retained due to the clunky writing of other mythology books. Quite a few of these had me grimacing at one paragraph and laughing at the next. Norse myths are incredibly violent. Their creation myth was the bloodiest creation mythos I ever remember reading. But even in Ragnarok, the end of the world as foretold by the Norsemen, there is hope to be found.
I could go into dissecting the stories, but I would hate to spoil anything for someone who is just becoming interested in mythology. But I will say that now I have a burning desire to reread Gaiman’s American Gods. Pick this up if you’ve ever had any kind of interest in ancient beliefs. Just know that this is no novel; this is a faithful retelling of ancient tales, but with style. You’ll learn something if you decide to read this, and you’ll have fun doing it!