Odin and Vili and Ve, the three sons of Bor, grew into manhood. They saw as they grew, far off the flames of Muspell and the darkness of Niflheim, but they knew that each place would be death to them. The brothers were trapped forever in Ginnungagap, the vast gap between the fire and the mist. They might as well have been nowhere.
There was no sea and no sand, no grass nor rocks, no soil, no trees, no sky, no stars. There was no world, no heaven and no earth, at that time. The gap was nowhere: only an empty space waiting to be filled with life and with existence.
It was time for the creation of everything. Ve and Vili and Odin looked at each other and spoke of what was needful to do, there in the void of Ginnungagap. They spoke of the universe, and of life, and of the future.
Odin and Vili and Ve killed the giant Ymir. It had to be done. There was no other way to make the worlds. This was the beginning of all things, the death that made all life possible.
They stabbed the great giant. Blood gushed out of Ymir’s corpse in unimaginable quantities; fountains of blood as salt as the sea and gray as the ocean gushed out in a flood so sudden, so powerful, and so deep that it swept away and drowned all the giants. (Only one giant, Bergelmir, Ymir’s grandson, and his wife survived, by clambering onto a wooden box, which bore them like a boat. All the giants we see and we fear today are descended from them.)
Odin and his brother made the soil from Ymir’s flash. Ymir’s bones they piled up into mountains and cliffs.
Our rocks and pebbles, the sand and gravel you see: these were Ymir’s teeth and the fragments of bones that were broken and crashed by Odin and Vili and Ve in their battle with Ymir.
The seas that girdle the world: these were Ymir’s blood and his sweat.
Look up into the sky: you are looking at the inside of Ymir’s skull. The stars you see at night, the planets, all the comets and the shooting stars, these are sparks that flew from the fires of Muspell. And the clouds you see by day? These were once Ymir’s brains, and who knows what thoughts they are thinking, even now.
I’ve always been into mythology in all its possible incarnations, though the Norse mythology has always had a special place in my heart, me being a Tolkien fan and all. I’ve always been a fan of Neil Gaiman too, so when I saw his new book Norse Mythology I knew straight away that I was going to read it.
In truth I hadn’t had the opportunity to read it yet, but since I’m doing a very boring and repetitive job at my work, I though maybe I could listen to it, because listening to stories helps me with this king of job. And you know? I knew he’s a fantastic storyteller. I had the great opportunity to hear him speak at a book festival years ago, and I had heard from everyone that he is fantastic when he reads his own work. What can I say? It was absolutely fantastic!!!
Now, the book in itself is great in it own right. For what I can see, Gaiman was very faithful to the original material and he arranged it in a way that it does create a story arc, even if this is not something mythology offers spontaneously. He also managed to give every character their own recognizable personality, especially when they are recurring characters. The setting of the north, Asgard, the mythological creatures, the gods… it was like a full immersion in that world.
But what I loved the most was Gaiman’s personal look at it, his usual unintrusive magic, the innocence his writing naturally has. It was particularly apt to a tell of myths, he managed to make that material credible and sympathetic, and at the same time far-away and magical.
Then there’s his interpretation. I wonder if it was so involving because he reads his own stuff and knows it inside out, but it was a full-immersion experience. He not only reads, he also acts. Every character has their own voice and attitude, and the rhythm of the reading suggests the emotions. I ended up laughing and also shivering. Norse mythology is no place for the faint of heart.
The way Gaiman wrote and read Ragnarok grounded in that world in the moment it was destroyed, if this makes any sense. It was so involving, so visceral that instead of feeling like a goodbye, felt like being grabbed and pulled, so that you will never truly leave.
I totally loved it!
In post is part of the Thursday Quotables meme. If you want to discover more about this meme and maybe take part in it, head over to Bookshelf Fantasies