Odd nodded. ‘My mother used to tell me stories about boys who tricked Giants. In one of them, they had a stone-throwing contest, but the boy had a bird, not a stone, and it went up into the air and it just kept going.’
‘I’d never fall for that one’, said the Giant. ‘Anyway, birds, they just head for the nearest tree.’
‘I am trying,’ said Odd, ‘to allow you to go home with your honour intact and a whole skin. You aren’t making it any easier for me.’
The Giant said, ‘A whole skin?’
‘You banished Thor to Midgard,’ said Odd, ‘yet he’s back now. It’s only a matter of time until he gets here.’
The Giant blinked. ‘But I have his hammer,’ he said. ‘I turned it into this boulder I sit on.’
‘But if I take Freya back to Jotunheim, she’ll just shout at me and make everything worse. And if I take Thor’s hammer he’ll just come after it, and one day he’ll get it, and then he’ll kill me.’
Odd nodded in agreement. It was true. He knew it was.
When, in the years that followed, the Gods told this tale, late at night, in the great hall, the always hesitated at this point, because in a moment Odd will reach into his jerkin, and pull out something carved of wood, and none of them was certain what it was.
Some of the Gods claimed that it was a wooden key, and some said it was a wooden heart. There was a school of thought that maintained that what Odd had presented the Giant with was a realistic carving of Thor’s hammer, and that the Giant had been unable to tell the real from the false, and had fled, in terror.
They were wrong. It was none of these things.
There’s a strange quality to Neil Gaiman’s writing, a sense that everything is perfectly plausible mixed with a strong sense of the wondrous. Like a true fairy tale. As if reality and magic were meant to exist together.
This is the sense this story exudes. It was written years ago for the International Reading Day, but it sure resembles what Gaiman has written many years later and is out this year: the Norse Mythology. This is the retelling, somehow updated, of a Norse myth, and it’s full of wonder, of mystery, of magic and of ingenuity.
I truly love that sense of naivety many of Gaiman’s characters have. They have such an open outlook on life. I think this openness is what gives that peculiar sense of wonder to his stories: his characters know anything can happen, and they accept it when it happens. Just like that. Naturally.
This 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