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The Penguin Book of Norse Myths: Gods of the Vikings Paperback – 7 Apr 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; Re-issue edition (7 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241953219
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241953211
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,446 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kevin Crossley-Holland's Arthur trilogy was translated into 25 languages, and has sold well over one million copies worldwide. He is a poet, historical novelist for children and authority on traditional tale who has presented many BBC radio programmes and is a frequent speaker at schools and libraries. He is the President of the School Library Association, an Honorary Fellow of St Edmund Hall, Oxford, a patron of the Society of Storytelling, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. His memoir of childhood, The Hidden Roads, was published in 2009.

Bracelet of Bones, the first of his Viking Sagas, was published in 2011 and the second book in the series, Scramasax, in 2012.

Product Description

Review

A collection of dramatic, moving, intricately structured stories ... a scholarly survey and compendium of Norse mythology ... a sustained poem distinguished by the icy precision of its language (The Times Educational Supplement)

Stately or bucolic, heroic or comic, romantic or gross, horrific or gentle, deeply ironic or deeply moving, the myths here retold yield up their mood and substance (The Times Literary Supplement)

About the Author

Kevin Crossley-Holland is an eminent poet, translator and prize-winning children's author. His translations of Old English poetry are brought together in The Anglo-Saxon World, and he has also translated The Exeter Book Riddles for Penguin Classics. Among his many publications are eight volumes of poetry, various anthologies, including The Oxford Book of Travel Verse and Folk Tales of the British Isles, as well as two operas, a play and a memoir. He was previously Gregory Fellow in Poetry at the University of Leeds, editorial director of Victor Gollancz, Lecturer in Anglo-Saxon Literature and Culture for the Tufts University London program, Fulbright Visiting Scholar at St Olaf College and Endowed Chair in the Humanities and Fine Arts at the University of St Thomas. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and lives in Norfolk.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 14 April 1998
Format: Paperback
Adult retelling of stories we think we know from the surviving original sources. Reading Crossley-Holland's book is like reading the real Grimm's Fairy Tales -- they are much stranger and more disturbing than you remember from the kiddie show about Thor and his hammer. The Aesir are a doomed race of flawed, violent, sometimes cruel but ultimately heroic gods. Odin is not always a benevolent father, but also is obsessed with knowledge and willing to kill, deceive and suffer intensely to get it. Freya is not only a war-goddess but a kind of personification of sex. The stories cover the building of Asgard, an ur-War between the Aesir and the ultimately allied Vanes, struggles between the gods and the Frost Giants, the mischief and ultimately evil of Loki, and an array of malevolent dwarves and monsters with names like Niddhog (the worm that gnaws the root of the world-tree Yggdrasil, Fenris the wolf of the end of the world. Incidentally, Tolkien got many of the names of his characters from the sources. Highly recommended.
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Tal Katz on 2 Mar. 2005
Format: Hardcover
The author retells the beautiful and colorful Norse mythology in an organized way which in it, it is comfortable to follow the development of the story and without losing in sense of Myth in the translation.
The many stories of that mythology are wonderful and capture the reader in the magical world of the Gods fighting against the giants and trying to keep their grip as rulers until the unavoidable Ragnarok.
The author also made good notes of each story which explains the story's origin and the introduction at the beginning of the book is very interesting and explains a lot about the Norse world and the development of its Mythology through the hundreds of years.
I recommend this book very much to the fans of this kind of literature, the Norse mythology is just fascinating and full of cleverness and humor.
Tal Katz.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Allie B on 18 Oct. 2012
Format: Paperback
I had always meant to read the Norse myths but had never got around to it until recently. I'm so glad that I chose Kevin Crossley-Holland's retelling of these fascinating myths. He has skilfully drawn on multiple sources from pre-Christian and Christian Iceland and other Nordic countries; however most of all he draws from Snorri Sturluson's 'Prose Edda' (written in approx 1220). If you're not familiar with the myths, I would advise reading the 'introduction' beforehand; it contains a map of the nine worlds that the Norsemen believed in. At least then you can understand the various references to each realm in the myths. The myths themselves are far more thrilling and entertaining than I thought they would be - many of them portray the ongoing tensions and fights between the Gods and the giants. I kept thinking how much the works of 20th and 21st C fantasy writers - from Tolkien to C. S. Lewis to Neil Gaiman - are influenced by them.

The Gods and Goddesses are intriguing characters and some are multi-faceted in that they are worshipped for more than one reason - e.g. Freya is not just Goddess of love but also of war (she rides to battle in a chariot drawn by two cats!). Loki (the trickster) has to be one of my favourites. It was interesting to read more about the traditions and beliefs of pre-Christian Scandinavia like the boat burials too. I'm going to miss reading about the Gods' various exploits and I can actually see why the old Norse worshipped them - far more exciting than the monotheistic religions. They also seem more relevant to our own British culture than Greek myths, due both to the fact that we were invaded by Vikings and in the wider sense of reflecting a similar northern European outlook. Yet unlike the Greek myths, Norse myths are strangely and sadly overlooked here; they should be on the national curriculum. All in all, I wholeheartedly recommend this version of the beautiful Norse myths; it has instantly become one of my favourite books.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 7 April 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a beautifully collected chunk of deep north european culture. The stories are great and funny, kevin c-h's prose is sharp and interesting.

Many people are drawn to greek myth and to native american stories of creation, or of the trickster coyote. It seems a real shame to have read these stories but to have missed core norse myths, which have been told on our land, right here, for millenia. the creation story is weird and magnificent, the end of days is always waiting there, with the release of the wolf fenrir and the death of the gods. loki is a tricky and cunning god, causing mayhem and getting out of scrapes. the details of the gods are exquisite - freyja, goddess of fertility, also goes to war in her chariot drawn by two cats, accompanied by her magical boar, and has a cloak of feathers that allow her (or loki) to fly anywhere. it is a rich source for the imagination, particularly as many of the tales are lost and some of the characters are there, but undeveloped (or developed in other stories). there is a wonderful open-endedness to many of the stories.

These stories, along with the celtic myths, are deeper and closer to people on these islands than the greeks or the judaic stories. Yet deeply neglected. And I think they are a much more fun read than achilles' sulking and slaughtering in the iliad. give me loki, heimdall, or cu chullain any day. (though i could never give up odysseus!)

On a more concrete note the stories are fun, very readable and the notes are an absolute blessing. You don't need the notes to get the story (I often can't understand shakespeare without flicking to the commentary) as they are so well written. But if anyone has ever tried to read the older / poetic edda in the raw, you will find these adaptations, and the notes, a huge relief.
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