by Neil Gaiman
It has taken 800 years for the stories we now call “Norse mythology” to catch global fire. As Neil Gaiman himself acknowledges, this owes much to Marvel Comics’ depictions of Thor and Loki. But many popular writers including Tolkien, Robert Heinlein and George R.R. Martin owe a debt to these strange, action-packed tales that flirt with the apocalypse they called Ragnarok. Gaiman’s faithful updating of 16 ancient Norse fables makes perfect sense. His own work (Sandman, American Gods) has long been fascinated by how the material world interacts with strange worlds unseen. His sprightly, comic prose revels in the downright strangeness of the Norse narratives: the cosmology (the divine realm of Asgard, the human sphere of Midgard); the creation myths (magic cows, supernatural squirrels); and the characters (large men with thunderous hammers, rivalrous gods, thwarted lovers). It is tempting to see Gaiman himself as Loki turned writer: a playful, chaotic and determinedly teenage spirit who revels in chaos and chance. Norse Mythology is timeless and timely fun.