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Warning! This is a harsh critique (long angry rant) on “Norse Mythology” by Neil Gaiman, so if you are a huge Gaiman fan you may not want to read this. I am a fan of Gaiman’s comics & other books, just not this one.
I posted before about how I read 100 pages of the 300 pages in “Norse Mythology” by Neil Gaiman and I stopped reading it because I hated his interpretation of the myths & all his changes to them. Recently my curiousity got the better of me & I decided to give it another try to see if it gets any better. I made it to page 113 & one part made me outwardly groan & roll my eyes. Gaiman decided to take these millennia old myths about gods & turn them into a bad sitcom. I’ve read dozens of different translations & interpretations of the Norse myths over 45 years. I’ve disagreed with some, but this is the first one that I actually hate.
When I was 12 years old in 1980, I bought a copy of “The Norse Myths” by Kevin Crossley-Holland and I fell in love with it. It is still my favorite book about the Norse myths & my 38 year old paperback copy is falling apart. Neil Gaiman writes in the introduction of his book “I did not dare go back to the tellers of Norse myth whose work I had loved, to people like Roger Lancelyn Green and Kevin Crossley-Holland, and reread their stories. I spent my time instead with many different translations of Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda, and with the verses of the Poetic Edda, words from nine hundred years ago and before, picking and choosing what tales I wanted to retell and how I wanted to tell them, blending versions of myths from the prose and from the poems.” So, right there he admits that he didn’t use Kevin Crossley-Holland’s book for reference and he mixes up different myths & changes plots around. He also adds so much of his own narrative including very bad sitcom jokes. second wedding dresses for older brides
Now I’m going to show the difference between Gaiman’s version & a couple other versions of the same part of a myth about Thrym, king of the frost giants, stealing Thor’s hammer Mjölnir so that he can ransom it for the goddess Freyja. The part I’m focusing on is after Loki discovers that Thrym stole Mjölnir and talked with him, then returns to tell Thor the news.

From “The Norse Myths” by Kevin Crossley-Holland, the myth is titled The Lay of Thrym:
Loki grimaced and the sound of Thrym’s freezing laughter followed him as he climbed again into the sky. The feather dress whirred. He left the world of the giants behind him and flew as fast as he could until at last he returned to the world of the gods.
Thor was waiting in the courtyard of Bilskirnir and at once asked the Sky Traveller, ‘What’s in your head and what’s in your mouth? Real news or nuisance?’ The Thunder God’s eyes blazed and it was clear that he would brook no nonsense. ‘Stand here and tell me the truth at once. A sitting man forgets his story as often as not, and a man who lies down first lies again afterwards.’
‘I bring nuisance and I bring news,’ said the Sly One, the corners of his crooked mouth curling. ‘Thrym, king of the frost giants, has your hammer. And no one is going to touch it unless he brings Freyja to be his bride.’
Then Thor and Loki hurried to Sessrumnir for a second time and found Freyja there.

From “The Poetic Edda” by Jackson Crawford (a new translation published in 2015), the myth is titled Thrymskvitha (literally “Thrym’s Poem”):
Then Loki flew,
wearing Freyja’s feather-suit--
its feathers whistled in the air--
till he left Jotunheim
and came into
He met Thor
in the center of Asgard,
and the first thing
Thor said was this:
“Were your efforts
rewarded on this journey?
Stay in the air, and tell me
what news you have.
Stories are often forgotten
when the teller sits down,
and lies are often told
when people lie down.”
Loki said, “My efforts
were rewarded with this news:
Thrym, a king among giants,
has your hammer,
No one will ever find
that hammer again
unless Freyja
is brought to him for his bride.”
Then they went
to find lovely Freyja,
and the first thing
Thor said was this:
“Freyja, put on a
wedding dress!
The two of us, man and woman,
are going to Jotunheim.”

From Norse Mythology” by Neil Gaiman, the myth is titled Freya’s Unusual Wedding:
Loki drew Freya’s feathered cloak around him, then stretched his arms and took to the skies.
Beneath Loki the world seemed very small: he looked down at the trees and the mountains, tiny as children’s playthings, and the problems of the gods seemed a small thing also.
Thor was waiting for him in the court of the gods, and before Loki had even landed he found himself seized by Thor’s huge hands. “Well? You know something. I can see it in your face. Tell me whatever you know, and tell it now. I don’t trust you, Loki, and I want to know what you know right this moment, before you’ve had a chance to plot and to plan.”
Loki, who plotted and planned as easily as other folk breathed in and out, smiled at Thor’s anger and innocence. “Your hammer has been stolen by Thrym, lord of all the ogres,” he said. “I have persuaded him to return it to you, but he demands a price.”
“Fair enough, “ said Thor. “What’s the price?”
“Freya’s hand in marriage.”
“He just wants her hand?” asked Thor hopefully. She had two hands, after all, and might be persuaded to give up one of them without too much of an argument. Tyr had, after all.
“All of her,” said Loki. “He wants to marry her.”
“Oh,” said Thor. “She won’t like that. Well, you can tell her the news. You’re better at persuading people to do things than I am when I’m not holding my hammer.”
They went together to Freya’s court once more.

See the differences? In the first two examples, Thor is articulate but in Gaiman’s version he’s a dumb brute. I could hear the sitcom canned laughter in my head when Thor said “He just wants her hand?” Ugh.
Gaiman’s title for the myth “Freya’s Unusual Wedding” sounds like a sitcom title too. Gaiman also chooses to use the lesser used Freya instead of Freyja, and he demotes Thrym from king of the frost giants to lord of all the ogres.
If you like Neil Gaiman’s books or comics, you should avoid this book or you may lose some respect and admiration for him like I did.

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