My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Norse Mythology (2017) by Neil Gaiman, the British writer, is a bit of a disappointment since much of his 2017 text has been found to closely resemble in structure and delivery (as you will soon see) many videos on Norse mythology posted on the video-sharing website called YouTube.
In addition, written as though his book would be for young adults, many of the stories Gaiman chooses to write about are often not suitable for readers under the age of eighteen due to sexual content and extreme acts of violence.
The first example of Gaiman’s liberal hand repeatedly (and shockingly) lifting and copying YouTube videos can be found in Gaiman’s 2017 version in three parts concerning the myth that describes the beginning of the universe until the creation of humankind located in the second chapter called “Before the Beginning, and After” (pgs 13-19). Gaiman’s 2017 text mirrors the video “THE CREATION – Norse Mythology 1” on YouTube posted in 2013 by TheSwedishLad. The 2013 video and the 2017 text explain the information in an identical three-part structure.
Coincidence? You can judge for yourself, but an educated person would agree that there are striking resemblances between Gaiman’s three-part structure of the narrative and the three-part structure of the narrative found in the video on YouTube.
If you take time and watch the 2013 video by TheSwedishLad while following along in Gaiman’s 2017 book, you will find striking similarities between the two. Both keep to similar content and structure and the video acts almost as a visual representation, verbatim, of Gaiman’s chapter—as though Gaiman watched the almost three-minute video and simply wrote out his chapter in three sections (one section per one minute of the video) during a day or two of work. An extremely educated person can tell not much time and energy went into making Gaiman’s 2017 chapter stand apart from the earlier video posted online in 2013.
Here is a matching timeline between the 2013 video “THE CREATION – Norse Mythology 1” and Gaiman’s 2017 chapter “Before the Beginning, and After” (pgs 13-19):
00:08 – 00:45 in the 2013 video = pages 13-14 in the 2017 text = in identical order both discuss the Beginning, Niflheim, and Muspell
00:46 – 2:00 in the 2013 video = pages 15-17 in the 2017 text = in identical order both discuss the void, the poisonous rivers, Ymir, Audhumla, Bor, Odin, Vili, Ve, and the death of Ymir to create the Earth
2:01 – 2:50 in the 2013 video = pages 17-19 in the 2017 text = in identical order both discuss the creation of humankind
For a second example, Gaiman’s 2017 version in three parts of Thor and Loki’s adventure into the land of the giants called, with little creativity, “Thor’s Journey to the Land of the Giants” (pgs 137-161) mirrors the BBC videos on YouTube (“Thor and the Giants” – Parts I, II, & III) posted in 2012 by KeltieCochrane which explains the same journey, like Gaiman, also in three parts.
Another coincidence? You can judge for yourself, but an educated person would agree that once again there are striking resemblances between Gaiman’s three-part structure of the narrative and the three-part structure of the narrative found in the three videos on YouTube.
Part I: Gaiman’s 2017 version of the Norse myth where Thor and Loki venture into the land of the giants with Thor’s huge goats called Snarler and Grinder and how Grinder’s leg came to be broken can be found in the first section of three in Gaiman’s chapter called “Thor’s Journey to the Land of the Giants” (pgs 139-142), and this is identical to the BBC video on YouTube posted in 2012 by KeltieCochrane, also a part one, called “Thor and the Giants – Part I”.
Part II: Gaiman’s 2017 version of the Norse myth where Thor and Loki continue farther into the land of the giants and encounter the giant Skrymir can be found in the second section of three in Gaiman’s chapter “Thor’s Journey to the Land of the Giants” (pgs 142-147), and this is identical to the BBC video on YouTube posted in 2012 by KeltieCochrane, also a part two, called “Thor and the Giants – Part II”.
Part III (and finale): Gaiman’s 2017 version of the Norse myth where Thor and Loki continue deeper into the land of the giants and ultimately have trials in Utgard can be found in the third and final section of Gaiman’s chapter “Thor’s Journey to the Land of the Giants,” (pgs 148-161) and this is identical to the BBC video on YouTube posted in 2012 by KeltieCochrane, also a part three and a finale, called “Thor and the Giants – Part III”.
A third example, returning to TheSwedishLad, Gaiman’s 2017 chapter “The Death of Balder” (pgs 213-232) mirrors the 2013 video posted on YouTube by TheSwedishLad called, quite similarly as, “DEATH OF BALDER – Norse Mythology 4”:
Here is a matching timeline between the 2013 video “DEATH OF BALDER – Norse Mythology 4” and Gaiman’s 2017 chapter “The Death of Balder” (pgs 213-232):
00:08 – 00:37 in the 2013 video = pages 213-220 in the 2017 text = in identical order both discuss Balder, Balder’s wife Nanna, and Frigg’s protection over Balder
00:38 – 00:55 in the 2013 video = pages 221-223 in the 2017 text = in identical order both discuss Loki’s scheme (in the video spelled “Loke”) to kill Balder, and the blind god named Hod (in the video spelled “Höder”)
00:56 – 1:04 in the 2013 video = pages 224-225 in the 2017 text = in identical order both discuss Balder’s funeral and Nanna’s unexpected death
1:05 – 1:40 in the 2013 video = pages 226-229 in the 2017 text = in identical order both discuss Hermod going to speak with Hel (who is one of Loki’s children) to try and bring Balder back to life and back to Asgard
1:41 – 2:33 in the 2013 video = pages 230-232 in the 2017 text = both discuss Thokk (in the video spelled “Töck”), Rind, Vali (in the video spelled “Vale”), and the murder of Hod (in the video spelled “Höder”) as an act of revenge for Balder’s death
More examples abound between Gaiman’s “heavily researched” (???) 2017 book and videos posted years earlier on YouTube.
The uncanny similarities include (but are not limited to): Gaiman’s 2017 chapter “The Children of Loki” (pgs 75-90) is strangely similar to the 2013 video posted on YouTube by TheSwedishLad called, quite similarly as, “CHILDREN OF LOKI – Norse Mythology 5”;
More coincidences? You can judge for yourself, but an educated person would agree that there are too many striking resemblances to ignore between Gaiman’s 2017 book Norse Mythology and many videos found for free on YouTube.
Granted, one might argue (and one can be sure Gaiman will try to argue) that his versions of the Norse mythologies taken, as he claims, directly from the Prose Edda & Poetic Edda will certainly share striking similarities to free videos on YouTube.
In the introduction, Gaiman even testifies to his extensive (?) research by explaining, rather cleverly with a tongue similar to Loki’s—which only a fool would trust:
“I did not dare go back to the tellers of Norse myth whose work I had loved, to people like Roger Lancelyn Green and Kevin Crossley-Holland, and reread their stories. I spent my time instead with many different translations of Snorri Sturlison’s Prose Edda, and with the verses of the Poetic Edda, words from nine hundred years ago and before, picking and choosing what tales I wanted to retell and how I wanted to tell them, blending versions of myths from the prose and from the poems” (p xvii).
Nevertheless, what has been clearly illustrated above through numerous and overwhelming and alarming evidence is how Gaiman’s specific choices out of all the “tales” and narratives taken, as he claims, from the Prose Edda & Poetic Edda and how the structures in which to tell these narratives (i.e., how he wanted to tell these stories) quite often, and quite pathetically, mirror YouTube videos.
Is this what serious literature has evolved into? A writer sitting at his desk watching YouTube videos for research and then switching over to a word document to type up a chapter in a day’s work? Can we expect better? Should we expect more from a professional writer?
In addition to a poorly researched book on Norse myths, the British writer passes these copied tales off as being suitable for young adults (which it is not).
Case in point (which awkwardly feels like “grooming” at times), Loki ties a rope around his genitals in a sexual display with a goat:
“Thor nodded, and he tapped the handle of his hammer meaningfully.
“Loki shook his head. Then he went outside, to pens where the animals were kept, and he came back into the wedding feast leading a large, extremely irritated billy goat. Loki irritated the goat even more by tying a strong rope tightly around its beard.
“Then Loki tied the other end of the rope around his own private parts.
“He tugged on the rope with his hand. The goat screamed, feeling its beard tugged painfully, and it jerked back. The rope pulled hard on Loki’s private parts. Loki screamed and grabbed for the rope again, yanking it back.
“The gods laughed. It did not take a lot to make the gods laugh, but this was the best thing they had seen in a long time. They placed bets on what would be torn off first, the goat’s beard or Loki’s private parts” (pgs 179-180).
On a more positive note, however, Gaiman is able to bring the Norse tales to life. He explains:
“As I retold these myths, I tried to imagine myself a long time ago, in the lands where these stories were first told, during the long winter nights perhaps, under the glow of the Northern Lights, or sitting outside in the small hours, awake in the unending daylight of midsummer, with an audience of people who wanted to know what else Thor did, and what the rainbow was, and how to live their lives, and where bad poetry comes from” (p xvii).
At times you do feel all this is true, as if you are one with the Norse myths beneath the Northern Lights. You will also know, after reading Gaiman’s version of the Norse myths, where “bad poetry” comes from and how even Gaiman may fall victim to those extraordinarily low depths found in bad poetry and indolence.
Regardless, for the cost of the book ($240 Hong Kong dollars, equal to $30.86 USD for a First Edition), we can only recommend for you to avoid buying this book (you can always check it out, if available, at a local library and return it). All the Norse mythologies and more that Gaiman covers you can find online and for free on YouTube (see some of those links below).
Out of all the “many different translations of Snorri Sturlison’s Prose Edda, and with the verses of the Poetic Edda, words from nine hundred years ago and before” (p xvii), Neil Gaiman offers nothing new, nor in-depth, nor thought provoking to the Norse myths as one would have hoped and expected from such a beloved and talented writer.
As they say in Hollywood about actors and actresses who perform a project half-heartedly: Gaiman phoned this one in.
As always: Keep reading and smiling…
“THE CREATION – Norse Mythology 1”:
“DEATH OF BALDER – Norse Mythology 4”:
“CHILDREN OF LOKI – Norse Mythology 5”:
“THOR BECOMES A WOMAN – Norse Mythology 6”:
“RAGNARÖK – Norse Mythology 11”:
“Thor and the Giants – Part I”:
“Thor and the Giants – Part II”:
“Thor and the Giants – Part III”:
“Vikings – Odin & the Lords of Asgard”:
The American novelist CG FEWSTON has been a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome (Italy), a Visiting Fellow at Hong Kong’s CityU, & he’s a member of the Hemingway Society, Club Med, and the Royal Society of Literature. He’s also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) based in London.
He’s the author of several short stories and novels. His works include A Father’s Son (2005), The New America: A Collection (2007), The Mystic’s Smile ~ A Play in 3 Acts (2007), Vanity of Vanities (2011), A Time to Love in Tehran (2015), Little Hometown, America: A Look Back (2020); and forthcoming: Conquergood & the Center of the Intelligible Mystery of Being; A Time to Forget in East Berlin; and, The Endless Endeavor of Excellence.
He has a B.A. in English, an M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership (honors), an M.A. in Literature (honors), and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Fiction. He was born in Texas in 1979.
You can follow the author on Facebook @ cg.fewston – where he has 440,000+ followers