Norse Mythology (book)

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Norse Mythology
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman - original hardcover.jpg
Original hardcover of Norse Mythology
AuthorNeil Gaiman
CountryUnited Kingdom
PublisherW.W. Norton & Company
Publication date
7 February 2017

Norse Mythology is a 2017 book by Neil Gaiman. The book is a retelling of several stories from Norse mythology. In the introduction, Gaiman describes where his fondness for the source material comes from. The book received positive reviews from critics.

List of myths[edit]

Each chapter introduces some mythological characters (usually gods or giants) and/or tells some stories.

The players[edit]

The three most important gods, Odin, Thor and Loki, are presented.

Before the beginning, and after[edit]

From the primordial chaos between the Niflheim and the Muspelheim, two living beings are created: Ymir (ancestor of all giants) and the cow Audhumbla, whose milk feeds Ymir. In turn, Audhumbla creates Búri (ancestor of all gods), whose grandchildren Odin, Vili and Vé eventually kill Ymir. Using the various part of his enormous body, they create the current world; they also create the first humans, Ask and Embla, to populate Midgard.

Yggdrasil and the nine worlds[edit]

The world tree Yggdrasil is introduced, which binds together the various worlds of the Norse cosmology, including Asgard, Vanaheim and Jotunhei, the realms of, respectively the gods Aesir, the gods Vanir and the giants Jötunn.

Mimir's head and Odin's eye[edit]

Odin sacrifices his eye in order to be able to drink from the well of Wisdom of his uncle Mimir. As a consequence of the Aesir–Vanir War, Mimir is sent to the Vanir, who eventually kill him and send his head back to Odin.

The treasures of the gods[edit]

Loki cuts the hair of Sif (Thor's wife). In order to make up for the damage, he makes a wager between two groups of dwarf smiths, the Sons of Ivaldi and the brothers Brokkr and Eitri, who create many other treasure for the gods, including Mjolnir (Thor's hammer).

The master builder[edit]

A mysterious builder, together with his horse Svadilfari, offers to build a giant wall around Asgard, alone and at an extremely fast speed, in exchange for an exaggerate price: the sun, the moon and the goddess Freya. Loki convinces the gods to accept the wager, thinking the builder will never make it in time; after they realise that the wall is almost build, Loki tricks the builder's horse by taking the form of a mare, preventing him to complete the wall in time and denying the payment. The builder, revealed to be a giant in disguise, is killed by Thor, while Loki, in mare form, gives birth to Sleipnir.

The children of Loki[edit]

Loki has three monstrous children with the giantess Angrboda. The other gods seize them from the giants and try to prevent them from causing future troubles: the wolf Fenrir is bound forever with the chain Gleipnir (at the price of Tyr's hand); the sea serpent Jörmungandr is tossed in the ocean; and Hel is appointed by Odin as the ruler of the realm of the deads.

Freya's unusual wedding[edit]

After stealing Thor's hammer, the giant Thrymr asks the hand of Freya in marriage as a condition to return it to its owner. Loki helps Thor to dress as a goddess and trick the giant into preparing the marriage, where Thor kills Thrymr and recovers his hammer.

The mead of poets[edit]

In order to seal their truce, the Aesir and the Vanir use their salive to create an extremely wise being called Kvasir. When Kvasir visits the dwarves Fjalar and Galar, they kill him and create a magic mead out of his blood. After the dwarves kills the giant Gillingr and his wife, they are in turn turn tortured by Gillingr's son Suttungr and forced to give him the mead. Odin tricks Suttungr's daughter Gunnlöd and brings the mead back to Asgard.

Thor's journey to the land of the giants[edit]

Thor and Loki spend the night at a farmers' house, sharing the meat of their mythical goats; Loki tricks the boy Tjalvi into eating the bone marrow and then convince Thor, who want to punish the family, to take him and his sister Röskva as servants. They travel together to the castle of Utgarda-Loki (already met on the way under the fake appearance of the giant Skrymir), where they are tricked to compete in various contests they cannot win. After explaining that everything was just an illusion, and before Thor can take his revenge, Utgarda-Loki and his castle vanishes.

The apples of immortality[edit]

As a result of a fight with Loki, the giant Thiazi captures Idunn, keeper of the apples of immortality. Loki manages to bring Idunn back and is chased by Thiazi, who is killed by the other gods just before he can reach Asgard. His daughter Skadi seeks vengeance but she is appeased by the gods in several ways, including a marriage with Njord.

The story of Gerd and Frey[edit]

The god Frey falls in love with the giantess Gerd and becomes suddenly apatic and depressed. On requests from the other gods, Skírnir offers to help Frey in exchange of his sword: he travels to the house of her father Gymir and managed to convince Gerd to marry Frey in Barri.

Hymir and Thor's fishing expedition[edit]

In order to give a feast for them in his hall, the sea giant Aegir requires the gods to provide him with a giant cauldron to brew ale for all of them. On Tyr's suggestion, Thor travels to the giant Hymir and goes fishing with him to obtain his cauldron.

The death of Balder[edit]

Balder has recurring nightmares that he will die soon. His mother Frigg makes sure that he becomes almost invulnerable, but Loki discovers his only weakness and tricks Hod into killing his brother.

The last days of Loki[edit]

After a flyting with the gods, Loki escapes but he is chased and brought to justice. Váli, son of Loki, is turned into a wolf and made to kill his brother Narfi. Loki is then bound with Narfi's entrails with a snake dripping venom on his face; his wife Sigyn remains by his side and uses a bowl to catch the venom.

Ragnarok: The final destiny of the gods[edit]

Loki and Fenrir are freed and, together with Jörmungandr, Hel's legions and the giants, fight the gods in a final battle, which destroys most of the world and kill almost every participant. The only gods to survive are Módi and Magni (sons of Thor) and Váli and Vidar (sons of Odin), while Balder and Hod manage to return from the Underworld. Two humans, Lif and Lifthrasir, survive the destruction and will eventually give rise to a new generation.


The book was generally well received by critics, with some citing the prose as a strength. Kirkus Reviews said that Gaiman's description is rich and atmospheric.[1] The Washington Post's Michael Dirda said that, although Gaiman's short, clipped sentences usually seem better suited to children's fiction, his retellings were gripping and strongly characterised.[2] Peter Fields of Midwestern State University wrote positively about the simplicity and clarity of Gaiman's language, and indicated that the book's thematic material demonstrated his growth as a writer.[3]

Some writers compared his interpretation of the characters to the original tales. Fields said that Norse Mythology drew attention to eccentric aspects of the folklore often neglected from other popular adaptations, like Marvel Comics' depiction of Thor. Writing for The Guardian, classicist Natalie Haynes described the work as egalitarian, making space for the popular and lesser known aspects of the mythology.[4]


A ninety-minute audio adaptation was broadcast by BBC Radio 4 on Boxing Day 2018 featuring Derek Jacobi as Odin, Colin Morgan as Loki, Natalie Dormer as Freya, and Nathaniel Martello-White as Thor, with the stories narrated by Diana Rigg in the guise of an unexpected visitor, "Mrs. Njordsdottir", keeping an inquisitive young boy company in hospital during a blizzard.[5] Gaiman himself was heard in a cameo role as a radio announcement.[6]

An audiobook version was released in February 2017, narrated by Gaiman. The New York Times described his narration as "seductive".[7]

Comic book[edit]

Dark Horse Comics are currently adapting the book as an eighteen-issue series. P. Craig Russell provides the scripts, layouts, and covers for each issue. Art and colors are from a variety of artists, including Mike Mignola, Jerry Ordway, and Dave Stewart.[8][9] To mark the release of the first issue, a special edition cover by Bill Sienkiewicz was released along with a signed variant.[10] Variant covers are by David Mack.[9]

Issue Release date Story Art Colors Collection
FCBD 2020
Critical Role /
Norse Mythology
August 12, 2020 Prologue P. Craig Russell Lovern Kindzierski Norse Mythology
VOLUME 1[12]

March 24, 2021
ISBN 9781506718743
I #1[13] October 7, 2020 Yggdrasil and the Nine Worlds
Mimir's Head and Odin's Eye Mike Mignola Dave Stewart
The Treasures of the Gods (part 1) Jerry Ordway Lovern Kindzierski
I #2[14] November 4, 2020 The Treasures of the Gods (part 2)
I #3[15] December 9, 2020 The Master Builder (part 1) Piotr Kowalski
I #4[16] January 6, 2020 The Master Builder (part 2)
The Children of Loki (part 1) David Rubín
I #5[17] February 10, 2021 The Children of Loki (part 2)
Freya's Unusual Wedding (part 1) Jill Thompson
I #6[18] March 10, 2021 Freya's Unusual Wedding (part 2)
II #1[19] June 16, 2021 The Mead of Poets Matt Horak Lovern Kindzierski Norse Mythology
VOLUME 2[20]

March 30, 2022
ISBN 9781506722177
II #2[21] July 14, 2021
II #3[22] August 18, 2021 Thor's Journey to the Land of the Giants Mark Buckingham
II #4[23] September 15, 2021
II #5[24] October 13, 2021 The Apples of Immortality Gabriel Hernández Walta
II #6[25] November 17, 2021 The Story of Gerd and Frey Gabriel Hernández Walta, Sandy Jarrell
III #1[26][27] February 9, 2022 Hymir and Thor's Fishing Expedition David Rubín Norse Mythology
VOLUME 3[28]

January 25, 2023
ISBN 9781506726410
III #2[29] March 9, 2022 The Death of Balder (Part 1) David Rubín, Colleen Doran
III #3[30] April 13, 2022 The Death of Balder (Part 2) Colleen Doran
III #4[31] May 11, 2022 The Last Days of Loki Galen Showman
III #5[32] June 15, 2022 Ragnarok: The Final Destiny of the God (Part 1) P. Craig Russell Galen Showman
III #6[33] July 13, 2022 Ragnarok: The Final Destiny of the God (Part 2) Galen Showman


  1. ^ "Norse Mythology | Kirkus Books". Kirkus Reviews. 22 November 2016. Retrieved 28 December 2020.
  2. ^ Dirda, Michael (14 February 2017). "Neil Gaiman's Suspenseful and Surprising Norse Mythology". The Washington Post. Retrieved 28 December 2020.
  3. ^ Fields, Peter; Gaiman, Neil (2018). "Review of Norse Mythology, Gaiman Neil". Rocky Mountain Review. 72 (2): 324–326. ISSN 1948-2825. JSTOR 26565619.
  4. ^ Haynes, Natalie (12 February 2017). "Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman review – a rich retelling". the Guardian. Retrieved 28 December 2020.
  5. ^ Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, BBC programmes. Accessed 13 January 2018
  6. ^ Natalie Dormer, Colin Morgan and Derek Jacobi cast in Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology on Radio 4, Radio Times, 22 November 2018
  7. ^ Yuknavitch, Lidia (15 May 2017). "The Story of Thor, in the Voice of Neil Gaiman (Published 2017)". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 December 2020.
  8. ^ McMillan, Graeme. "Dark Horse Comics to Adapt Neil Gaiman's 'Norse Mythology'". The Hollywood Reporter.
  9. ^ a b "Dark Horse Explores Neil Gaiman's Asgard". Dark Horse. 23 December 2019.
  10. ^ McMillan, Graeme (22 September 2020). "Neil Gaiman's 'Norse Mythology' Gets Covers from Artist Bill Sienkiewicz | Hollywood Reporter". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 28 December 2020.
  11. ^ "Free Comic Book Day 2020: Critical Role / Norse Mythology". Dark Horse.
  12. ^ "Norse Mythology Volume 1 HC". Dark Horse.
  13. ^ "Norse Mythology #1". Dark Horse.
  14. ^ "Norse Mythology #2". Dark Horse.
  15. ^ "Norse Mythology #3". Dark Horse.
  16. ^ "Norse Mythology #4". Dark Horse.
  17. ^ "Norse Mythology #5". Dark Horse.
  18. ^ "Norse Mythology #6". Dark Horse.
  19. ^ "Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology Continues at Dark Horse Comics". Dark Horse. 18 March 2021.
  20. ^ "Norse Mythology Volume 2 HC". Penguin Random House.
  21. ^ "Norse Mythology II #2". Dark Horse.
  22. ^ "Norse Mythology II #3". Dark Horse.
  23. ^ "Norse Mythology II #4". Dark Horse.
  24. ^ "Norse Mythology II #5". Dark Horse.
  25. ^ "Norse Mythology II #6". Dark Horse.
  26. ^ "The Conclusion of the Comics Adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Bestselling 'Norse Mythology' Begins". Dark Horse. 4 December 2021.
  27. ^ "Norse Mythology III #1". Dark Horse.
  28. ^ "Norse Mythology Volume 3 HC". Dark Horse.
  29. ^ "Norse Mythology III #2". Dark Horse.
  30. ^ "Norse Mythology III #3". Dark Horse.
  31. ^ "Norse Mythology III #4". Dark Horse.
  32. ^ "Norse Mythology III #5". Dark Horse.
  33. ^ "Norse Mythology III #6". Dark Horse.