That’s One Way to Write A God – Neil Gaiman’s “Norse Mythology”

That’s One Way to Write A God – Neil Gaiman’s “Norse Mythology”

Putting a god of any kind into fiction, written or otherwise, is a difficult proposition – after all, these are supposedly beings with such incredible gifts that they are above anything humans could ever approach. Despite this, stories involving gods often write them with human concerns and motivations. As though the issues we face are the same worries an immortal being cares about.

Gaiman takes another path, and it makes Norse Mythology truly read like a myth. By that I mean the old style – the sort of tales wandering prophets would render alive around campfires in dusky twilights in the wilderness. Where the gods are the traits they represent, where they are beings of strange thoughts, reckless ambition, and creators of mischievous chaos. Thor is the brash hammer – and he brashly hammers away. Loki is the sublime trickster who, more often, runs afoul of his own cleverness. Odin may be wise and nigh invulnerable, but, as is the way of “old” gods, often fails to live up to his own greatness.

I said above that we often present gods as caring about what we humans do. Gaiman, along with the tales he’s recording in this tight volume, instead takes a greater interest in the failings of these gods. Thor may care about slaughtering frost giants, something most of us can’t relate to, but he often fails, in these stories, to perceive the full situation or think beyond the surface details – which is a very human fault. Loki creates schemes and plans that, at their outset, seem immaculate, but, thanks to an unnoticed variable, fall apart around him. Any one of us whose even attempted a project of any size can relate to that one.

My point for all this being – you characters, if they’re not human, do not need (or should not) have the same set of needs and desires as you and I. They should be different, because their frame of reference for the universe comes from a perspective far different from our own. However, they can still make our mistakes. I think it’s more fun when they do, as the consequences are often more entertaining. You trip and fall, you skin your knee. Thor trips and falls, suddenly you have a new mountain range.

In any case, I thoroughly enjoyed this set of tales and their odd assortment of fumbling gods and goddesses.

If you read it aloud, preferably at night, in front of a fire with a flagon of spiced mead close at hand, you’ll take a walk with gods and giants, and perhaps see some of yourself in both.

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