Gaiman tells about how the world was created and the Aesir gods (and also some of the older Vanir gods such as Frey and Freya) who live in Asgard and who fight the giants. He tells of Odin, who bought his wisdom through the sacrifice of his eye and who gained his power through his own sacrifice, hanging himself for nine days from the branches of Yggdrasil, the world tree, his side punctured by the point of a spear. He tells of Thor, the strong and mighty warrior, who kills giants with his hammer. He tells of Loki, the deceitful, trickster god, who gets the gods out of the scrapes he has usually got them into in the first place. All these are tales of long ago. But Gaiman ends with a chilling account of Ragnarok, the last day, and the twilight of the gods, when the gods battle the giants and the people of Hel, with Loki, will fight the dead warriors of Valhalla, and when the children of Loki will kill and be killed by the gods.
These are brilliant stories and Gaiman is a superb storyteller. Perhaps those things go together.
There is so much in this book that was brilliant but here are a few of my favourite moments:
- "Asgard ... was a Viking hall and collection of buildings out on the frozen wastes." (Introduction)
- "From the ice and the fire that the universe begins in to the fire and the ice that end the world." (Introduction)
- "The clouds ... were once Ymir's brains, and who knows what thoughts they were thinking, even now." (Before the beginning, and after)
- "A world is not a world until it is inhabited." (Before the beginning, and after)
- "The squirrel tells lies ... and takes joy in provoking anger." (Yggdrasil and the nine worlds)
- "Some norns give people good lives, and others give us hard lives, or short lives, or twisted lives." (Yggdrasil and the nine worlds)
- "Seldom do those who are silent make mistakes." (Mimir's head and Odin's eye)
- "He tried to look ashamed and succeeded simply in looking pleased with himself." (The children of Loki)
- "Dreams know more than they reveal." (The children of Loki)
- "The Death Ship, made from the untrimmed fingernails of the dead." (The story of Gerd and Frey)
A fabulous book by the best-selling author of, among much else, The Sandman and Anansi Boys.