Thinking about how future generations will look back on our times is something that I do a lot, especially when I find it difficult to sleep. Questions such as: Are we going to be viewed as we view barbarians? Which stories will stand the test of time, and which will be forgotten and unknown?
The first fables, myths and legends were told in an oral format, passed down from generation to generation. Written language would have to wait, but storytellers soon took to that format, which endures to this day. We really are lucky to have preserved so much of our written history, given war, natural disasters and the passage of time. In order to gear up for the library’s upcoming summer reading program, I thought it would be a good idea to explore other realms to escape the strangeness of today. I decided to start with NEIL GAIMAN’s “NORSE MYTHOLOGY.”
It takes a storyteller to give new life to these written words, which is why Gaiman is a fantastic choice, both for those looking to enter into the rich world of mythology and for those who want to see a new take on favorite legends. Gaiman has already established his admiration for Norse mythology, with “Odd and the Frost Giants,” about a young boy who is swept up into a quest to save Asgard, the city of the Norse gods. In that story, Gaiman demonstrates his ability to reshape the Norse mythical figures into a children’s narrative, taking existing lore and crafting a new tale.
Norse mythology, like most myths, sets out to answer questions about the world and our origins. From the beginning filled with nothing, through the birth of gods and man to Ragnarok, the mythic battle at the end of the world. This book deals with a wide range of characters and places, from Asgard to Yggdrasil, but the main focus is Odin, the highest and oldest of the gods, and his son Thor. Most people are familiar with Thor and his hammer, Mjollnir, and in this book, we learn how he acquires it. Odin, Thor and Loki seem more popular than ever because of Marvel.
A quick aside, I recommend the movie “Thor: Ragnarok.” I hadn’t seen many Marvel movies, but I feel like this one can be enjoyed without much knowledge of the rest of the cinematic universe.
Other gods and goddesses may seem familiar because they have made their way into our days of the week. Odin (sometimes referred to as Woden) donating his name for Wednesday — or Woden’s Day — and Thor for Thursday. Others include Tyr, the god of war, for Tuesday, and Frigg, Odin’s wife and queen of the gods, for Friday.
Rather than be strictly informational, “Norse Mythology” sets out to tell a story over one continuous arc. So if you are a fan of fiction books more than nonfiction, this might be for you. Fans of audiobooks rejoice in the name of Odin. The audiobook version, available instantly through the Hoopla App, is narrated by Gaiman. Listening to the audiobook brings the characters to life. I do wish that there was some colorful artwork included in the book, the only thing that seems missing. But the way Gaiman weaves his words paints a picture so complete that someone as picky as me can get over it and submit to his wonderful prose. A glossary in the back makes it easy to keep track of the sometimes hard-to-pronounce names, yet another reason the audio book was my friend during this time. If this book interests you, perhaps you would be interested in our summer reading program.
Summer reading is an important time for the library and our community, and we are doing our part to provide a fun, and safe, digital version of our annual summer reading festivities, for all ages. Our theme this year is “Imagine Your Story,” which encompasses fantasy, mythology, fairy tales and beyond. The summer reading program will begin May 26 and run until July 25. A library card is not necessary to participate, and anybody is welcome to register. Registration will be available online and in-person soon.
Come explore different stories and worlds with us.
Evan Martin is the assistant circulation supervisor at the Joplin Public Library.