Norse mythology has always intrigued me, from the tales of the mischievous trickster god Loki to the creation of the magical Bifrost. From Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology to Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda, I've read my fair share of Nordic literature. Naturally, I'd like to share an introductory guide to books on Norse mythology.
1. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology is a perfect introduction to the world of Norse gods and heroes. The novel begins with initial information about Odin, Thor, and Loki, the main characters, so to speak, of many of the Norse myths. Each chapter brings new life to the myths that we know and love in a manner that incorporates lively dialogue and descriptive exposition. Norse Mythology features a novelistic arc that begins with the recounting of the creation of the nine realms and ends with the fated twilight of the gods, Ragnarok, the occurrence of which making way for a timely rebirth. This book is a must have for ardent fans of Norse mythology!
2. Nordic Gods and Heroes by Padraic Colum
Padraic Colum's Nordic Gods and Heroes, originally published as The Children of Odin (1920), is an in-depth retelling of the Norse sagas. The novel is not unlike The Prose Edda for beginners, featuring less dialogue and more details than Gaiman's Norse Mythology. This was a rejuvenating read and included myths that I was yet unfamiliar with, including the tales of The Sword of the Volsungs and the Twilight of the Gods. I also enjoyed the chapter-by-chapter illustrations, featured in the original publication. This book is a recommended read for those who want to expand their knowledge of Norse mythology beyond the basics while still retaining the semblance of a novel rather than a history book!
3. D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths by Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire
The D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths is a lovely collection of Norse legends, its vivid illustrations practically unparalleled in the realm of Norse literature. The book even features a "Reader's Companion," or glossary providing insight into Nordic vocabulary and introductory information on gods, creatures, and the like. This is both a wonderful coffee table read and a captivating introduction to Norse mythology for young readers!
4. Der Ring des Nibelungen by Richard Wagner
Loosely based on characters from Germanic and Nordic poetry, mainly Norse legendary sagas and the Nibelungenlied, Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen, features four epic music dramas: Des Rheingold (The Rhinegold), Die Walküre (The Valkyrie), Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods). The operas follows the tale of a magic ring that possesses the power to rule the world, forged by Alberich, the dwarflike Nibelung, out of gold he stole from the Rhinemaidens of the river Rhine. It in many ways resembles another work that revolves around an all-powerful ring: J.R.R Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Despite Tolkien and Wagner both being influenced by the Norse sagas and Germanic poetry, Tolkien downplayed the similarities between Wagner's Ring Cycle and his own works, insisting "Both rings were round, and there the resemblance ceased." The Ring Cycle has its own role in not only reimagining Norse mythology but opera itself. This is wonderful for those looking for a refreshing read that reestablishes the element of surprise for readers familiar with Nordic literature.
5. The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson
Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda takes it all back the beginning, to the very origins of Nordic literature, and provides the fullest and most detailed source for modern knowledge of Norse mythology. Sturluson's Prose, or Younger, Edda features mainly prose whereas his Poetic, or Elder, Edda includes poetry. I would recommend the Prose Edda for beginners eager to explore the origins of Norse mythology as it provides the same novel-like format as some of the other works featured in this guide. This work is certainly a heavier read but Sturluson never fails to deliver his account in an extraordinarily detailed and entertaining manner!