Neil Gaiman, one of America’s best contemporary novelists, will put fiction aside this year to write Norse Mythology, a re-telling of the stories about the gods of Asgaard.
Norton (the publishing company I remember from my English major days as having compiled the best-respected anthologies of literature around) approached Gaiman for the project, and he was all too happy to take it on. He’s no stranger to the subject matter, having read books on Norse mythology as a boy until the pages fell apart.
Passion for Norse Mythology
The myths are such a great thread in his psyche that they pop up often in his fictional works, especially his most famous novel, American Gods, which is being turned into a TV adaptation for the Starz network in 2017. The novel is set in a modern world where mythological creatures exist because people believe in them, which means America used to house a mish-mash of gods that were brought by immigrants coming from far and wide. Over time, belief in them wanes and is replaced by gods of media, celebrity, drugs, and technology, among other modern American obsessions. The story culminates in a fight between the old gods and the new, which is pre-empted by the main character’s trip to Iceland to collect Odin, who is, just like Iceland’s modern language, very close to the original.
His children’s book Odd and the Frost Giants draws on Norse mythology and the historical Vikings to create a fictional story where the main character, a young Viking named Odd, meets a fox, an eagle, and a bear, which turn out to be Loki, Odin, and Thor in disguise (spoilers, I know.)
His popular comic book series The Sandman also prominently features Thor, Odin, and Loki who attempt to take over Hell in an attempt to avoid Ragnarok, the prophesied end of the world.
As for his approach, Gaiman says:
“I hope the scholarship is good, but much more than that, I hope that I have retold stories that read like the real thing: sometimes profound, sometimes funny, sometimes heroic, sometimes dark, and always inevitable.”
If putting beloved myths into the hands of a modern writer makes you nervous, just remember that that’s how the stories are meant to be passed down: through the voices of our living storytellers. Who better than one of America’s best?
Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology will arrive in February 2017.