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on 7 April 2010
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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on 14 April 1998
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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on 2 March 2005
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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on 4 January 2006
Finally I've found it: the book of tales of Odin, and Thor, and Bifrost, and Ragnarok! What a pleasure to read the tales that inspired so much of the world's fantasy literature! Here you'll find the background stories behind and the likes of Beowulf, the Nibelungenlied or the Volsungs' Saga, and obviously the roots of Professor Tolkien's own Middle-Earth mythology, so numerous are the similarities.
Not only are the thirty-two myths comprised in this translation very well told and captivating, but the introduction and notes are very complete and interesting, not to mention the very practical glossary and index. I haven't read Snorri Sturluson's Edda so I can't compare, but I'm pretty sure Kevin Crossley-Holland's is one of the best reference books on the subject, a must-have on one's shelf.
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on 18 October 2012
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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on 10 March 2013
This book is a perfect beginners guide to Norse mythology. It has Crossley-Holland's retelling of the myths and notes about each one.
Would reccomend to anyone who is interested in Norse myths and wants to find out more.
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on 14 January 2016
This book is an excellent introduction to Norse Mythology. It is extremely well written, highly engaging and entertaining. It was meant to be accessible to readers from all backgrounds – and in this it succeeds.

What makes this book a particular success is its well thought-out structure. The work is essentially divided into three parts:

The first consists of the introduction. Here the author not only provides a critical analysis of the source material, but also provides a succinct overview of Norse beliefs, culture and historical background essential to understanding the subsequent myths.

The second part consists of the collection of myths themselves; written in plain English and as close to the original text as possible. The myths themselves are highly readable, fascinating and entertaining. Many of the myths were lost to time, but the author has arranged those that we know of in such a way as to provide a coherent narrative.

The third part of the book can be described as an Appendix. Here the author discusses each myth in turn; analysing their meanings, contexts and significance while occasionally providing fascinating cross-cultural comparisons with other mythologies. This section is essential reading for those who want not only to be familiar with the stories, but to truly understand and appreciate them.

Traditionally obsessed with its Classical and Christian heritage, the West has largely ignored non-Mediterranean literary traditions. This author has convinced me that Norse mythology was no less rich and sophisticated than its Greek and Roman counterparts – and deserves to be recognised as part of Europe’s proud and diverse literary and cultural heritage.
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on 18 July 2013
Full of great information, but also easy to read and understand, my knowledge of this subject enhanced by this
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on 11 April 2014
Covers the Norse Myths in a clear and readable fashion. Unlike some other books however there is not too much analysis and history behind the Myths, but this is irrelevant if you just want to read/know the Myths.
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on 22 July 2002
This book taught me how to take an insult (like Thor ignore it- usually!) and reaffirmed the importance of courage. The Gods in these myths are closer to the Greeks ones than the Christians: their vices and virtues, their pettiness and greatness, however, it is all good fun and well worth a look. If you are a more serious student of Norse myths then the original Icelandic epics would, I imagine, be more worthwhile as all the tales are plucked from that tree.
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