Tuesday, November 7, 2017

“Norse Mythology” by Neil Gaiman

This week, I’m focusing on mythology – Norse mythology to be precise, the subject of the latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor: Ragnarok. While the movie does not even attempt to stay true to actual mythology, Neil Gaiman does in his latest release aptly titled Norse Mythology. Here’s my review.

Anyone who has read American Gods knows how much Norse mythology has influenced the writing of Neil Gaiman. In Norse Mythology, he provides a straightforward retelling of those ancient myths in a tone and tenor reminiscent of Gaiman’s best novels. This is the third book on Norse mythology I’ve read, and it easily ranks as one of my favorites. 

Gaiman covers all the Asgardian tales, beginning with the Norse creation myth and ending with Ragnarok, the Norse version of Armageddon. The heroes of these tales are the Norse gods like Thor, Odin, and Freya. Though if there is one overarching plotline that pervades these myths, it’s that, collectively, Norse mythology tells the story of Loki.

Thor and Loki are together again!
The trickster god is both villain and antihero in these stories. He’s a wisecracking member of the Asgardian court, and travel companion to Thor in their adventures through the giant lands. But he’s also father to the goddess Hel, as well as the gigantic wolf Fenrir and the world-serpent Jormungandr. Through them, Loki becomes the architect of Ragnarok, playing a role akin to the devil in the book of Revelation. Actually, the similarities between Ragnarok and Revelation are quite uncanny.

Overall, this book will be a worthwhile read for fans of mythology, Norse legends, and American Gods. In fact, the true identities of Mr. Wednesday and Shadow Moon both play big roles in this mythological epic. There are rumors of a possible sequel to American Gods, and after a healthy dose of Norse Mythology, I really hope it happens.

Cate Blanchett is fantastic as Hela.
But until then, let me say a few words about Thor: Ragnarok, which I saw this past Sunday. Marvel’s Thor is all messed up mythologically. For one, Hela (Hel) is Thor’s long-lost sister, instead of Loki’s daughter. Surt is a demon, instead of a fire giant, and Jormungandr is nowhere to be found. That said, the movie is a blast. Germain Lussier of io9 even wrote that Thor: Ragnarok May Be The Funniest Superhero Movie Ever.” The film does give us Fenrir (surprisingly), and a whole lot of Hulk, who does quite a bit of smashing during Ragnarok. Maybe if the real Thor and Odin had had a Hulk at Ragnarok, things would have turned out differently. 

The real Asgardians would have loved a Hulk! 
Finally, if you want another good book on Norse mythology, I highly recommend Loki by Mike Vasich. You can read my review of that book here.

And thanks to Amazon, you can also read a sample of Norse Mythology here.

* Photos courtesy of IMDb.

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