‘American Gods and Norse Myths’ – Neil Gaiman’s newest phantasmagorias from book to screen

Fingal Libraries
by Fingal Libraries on June 19, 2017.

Firstly, I will hold my hands up and say that I find it hard to read Neil Gaiman’s books, as much as I love the fantasy genre and the subjects of his books. The fault lies with the way I read – I scan pages rather than read every word. In the case of Neil […]

Firstly, I will hold my hands up and say that I find it hard to read Neil Gaiman’s books, as much as I love the fantasy genre and the subjects of his books. The fault lies with the way I read – I scan pages rather than read every word. In the case of Neil Gaiman, the text of his books are so densely packed and intricately detailed that I tend to miss important plot points.

Because of this, my memory of reading American Gods is a bit hazy – admittedly, reading it while on holiday in Disneyland was not the best time. When I started watching the new series, I had forgotten a lot of the finer details. As it turns out, that was no bad thing since the series necessarily changed a lot of plot points and it was almost as if I was watching it with no prior knowledge of the story.

The series begins with a man who loses everything he cares about in his life just as he is released from prison. At this low point, he meets a man called Mr. Wednesday who offers him a job. This is the point at which everything around him stops making sense – sights, sounds, experiences and his own understanding of the world all become unrecognisable, to him and to the viewer. The root cause of this is that he is now seeing that which is normally hidden from humans – the periphery, the shadow world. His name, not coincidentally, is actually Shadow Moon.

His adventures are dazzling, painful and in Technicolor as he becomes drawn into a war between the old gods and the new. A whole host of famous faces appear along his journey, either helping or threatening him. Some of their names may be familiar to the reader and viewer, but one thing is certain – familiar or not, Neil Gaiman will have put his own inimitable and quirky spin on their stories so that they become something new and strange, but always entertaining.

Gaiman has also recently released a new book called Norse Mythology, which features his retellings of the age-old adventures of the Norse gods Odin, Thor, Loki and the other inhabitants of Asgard. His interpretation of stories that have been told since the earliest Norse legendary sagas of the 4th Century are a brilliant blend of archaic and modern. He keeps the stories true to the voices of the ancient myths but also makes them relatable and contemporary.

I’ve been fascinated by Norse mythology since childhood and my favourite part of the last decade’s Marvel Avengers franchise has been the rebirth of the Asgardians Odin, Thor and Loki on the silver screen. Throw in Gaiman’s American Gods and Norse Myths and I’m a happy nerd.

By Aileen Gallagher, Fingal Libraries

**(P.S. For those interested in checking out ‘American Gods’, the first season is currently mid-season, running on the U.S. streaming channel Starz or online via Amazon Prime and a second series has been commissioned for 2018. Copies of both books are available to borrow via Fingal Libraries)