17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Impressive retelling of a rich and exciting tradition,
This review is from: The Penguin Book of Norse Myths: Gods of the Vikings (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.