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The Penguin Book of Norse Myths: Gods of the Vikings

4.20  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,071 Ratings  ·  188 Reviews
Dramatic, compelling and comprehensive - the great cycle of Norse myths are retold for the modern reader in The Penguin Book of Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley-Holland.

'Burning ice, biting flame; that is how life begins'

The extraordinary Scandinavian myth cycle is one of the most enduring, exciting, dramatic and compelling of the world's great stories.

A series of intertwined
Paperback, Reissue Edition, 320 pages
Published April 7th 2011 by Penguin (first published July 12th 1980)
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May 27, 2015 Brandi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference

What We Learned from "Thor" (skip if you remember the movie)
- The universe consists of nine realms.
- The gods live in Asgard, humans live in Midgard, and the Ice Giants live in Jotunheim.
- The nine realms are connected by the roots/branches of a tree called Yggdrasill.
- Odin is the Allfather, or most powerful.
- Thor is Odin's son and the god of thunder.
- Sif is one of the warriors from the movie.
- Loki is... well, you know who he is. The most cunning villain of all time.

This is what Marvel sh
Jan 09, 2011 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When it comes to myths and folktales, I'm something of a purist. The cultural aspects are often as interesting to me as the stories themselves, so I like to feel like I'm getting something relatively authentic. Unfortunately, this usually means wading through painfully academic translations, skipping back and forth between sterile prose and dry footnotes, salvaging what entertainment is left in the stories.

Rather than simply translate-and-annotate, Crossley-Holland has compiled these stories fro
Aug 10, 2007 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nerds, members of Led Zeppelin
I bought this at a tiny occult bookshop near the British Museum in June and have been stretching it out ever since. The dork in me really, really enjoys Norse myths. And I liked the notes at the end of each tale, where Crossley-Holland explained which parts came from Snorri Sturluson and which came from Saxo Grammaticus and hi I am single.
John Campbell
May 17, 2007 John Campbell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone, especially nordic folk
Crossley-Holland turns the myths into a cultural event with an informative introduction and copious endnotes, which compose about a fourth of the book.
The stories themselves, though, come across as short folk tales for children (no offense intended to old Snorri Sturulson and company). The one exception, the prophecy of Ragnarok, which packs an entire mythical apocalypse of universal darkness and destruction into four pages. It's worth reading, re-reading, and a little memorizing. Start with:
Don Lloyd
Jan 24, 2009 Don Lloyd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mythology
I knew a bit about the Norse Myths before reading this book, but then I read several novels that make extensive use of them (Gaiman, American Gods; Chabon, Summerland) and realized I wanted to learn more. I liked this retelling because Crossley-Holland takes and integrates the six primary literary sources (who knew?) and creates story cycle. When I was reading, I had strong contradictory feelings of familiarity and strangeness. Some of the character motivations are ones we're all familiar with, ...more
Jul 17, 2007 Betsy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: pagans and vikings
I love reading the Norse myths, and this one doesn't disappoint, with plenty of detailed stories. The very long introduction provides a welcome list of the pantheon, along with a map of the Norse 'world,' which makes it easier to keep track of these things. I revisit this book now and again for a good story; my favorites are probably the stories of Creation and Ragnarok (apocalypse).
Read with a flagon of ale and a roaring fire (preferably seated a reindeer pelt) to truly get into the mood.
Feb 15, 2009 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very nice introduction to the major Norse gods & myths. Crossley-Holland combines serious scholarship with a strong prose style to make the myths accessible to a cross-section of readers, the curious and serious alike. I found the extensive "Notes" section just as enjoyable as the myths themselves.
Mark Adderley
Jul 05, 2013 Mark Adderley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mythology
I don't normally like re-tellings of mythology. I'd rather read the original sources, wherever possible. This is the exception to that rule--Crossley-Holland makes the myths accessible with a beautiful style that invites the reader to walk with the characters (itself a skill, since these are gods).

So, after reading this (for the second time), what strikes me is the innate sadness of the Norse view of the universe. The Ragnarok story seems to indicate that all creation is cyclical--the universe w
Allie B
Oct 18, 2012 Allie B rated it it was amazing
I had always meant to read the Norse myths but had never got around to it until recently. I'm so glad that I chose Kevin Crossley-Holland's retelling of these fascinating myths. He has skilfully drawn on multiple sources from pre-Christian and Christian Iceland and other Nordic countries; however most of all he draws from Snorri Sturluson's 'Prose Edda' (written in approx 1220). If you're not familiar with the myths, I would advise reading the 'introduction' beforehand; it contains a map of the ...more
As interesting and informative as this collection was, it also left me with an overwhelming feeling of sadness that so many of the myths (mentioned, but not included in this text for obvious reasons) exist only in a very fragmented form or have been lost altogether. So many figures were only mentioned once, so many stories alluded to in other myths but never told. Of the stories that have survived, many exist in more than one form with no way of to determine which is the original. These circumst ...more
J.M. Briggs
Feb 15, 2016 J.M. Briggs rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mythology
This is a very strong book of mythology. While it certainly doesn't cover every story it presents some of the most notable ones and is a good read. In addition to writing the stories in a way that makes them seem more like short stories Crossley-Holland also has some great discussion insights and notes on the different elements of the myths.
A good compilation from a variety of sources. Sometimes the bits added in by Crossley-Holland annoyed me, as there was no basis for them in the myths, such as the fact that Loki's eyes kept changing colour... that was just weird. Generally the dialogue was OK, though, and Crossley-Holland does a good job of translating the humour and mood. When all's said and done, the stories are very entertaining so it would be difficult to ruin them. The introduction and the notes are excellent, lending a mor ...more
Barb Middleton
Jan 08, 2015 Barb Middleton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult, mythology
This is quite the scholarly feat. Kevin Crossley-Holland takes different sources with conflicting versions of Norse myths and creates a medley of 32 stories that are interesting and confusing. His copious notes at the end clarify the contradictory elements and he captures the flavor of the unique poems from that period of time. Kennings are a form of Anglo-Saxon poetry that are very difficult to decipher and understand. The author presents scaldic poetry in a rich manner that's oral background b ...more
Technically I didn't finish this as I decided to skip the notes, but I figure they are optional and as I actually read the introduction and all the myths, I'm counting this book as read.

They call Loki* the trickster God but really they all could have had this title. And not just the Gods, all of the creatures in this universe seemed hell bent on tricking each other at any opportunity. Yet Loki seems to be blamed the most, I think this is because he likes to trick other Gods and the others just s
Sean Leas
Jan 24, 2016 Sean Leas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, mythology
I absolutely loved this book, Crossley-Holland does a superb job of turning Nordic myths into highly entertaining reading. The introduction was very informative, and this is coming from someone that rarely reads the introduction. The endnotes really let you pour into the content, with a serious amount of information for each myth.

The myths are laid out in very easy to digest chunks, I promise there will be very little indigestion. Many only a couple pages. The only exception was Ragnarok, this i
Dec 08, 2008 Jens rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What can I say its the norse myths probably the most intersting of world mytholgy that ive read. This has become a bit of a hobby of mine adn I recommend this book to anyone. Unlike most mythology books the author has re-writen the myths in a more readable light. This book reads more like a novel than a history book but still covers all aspects of the myhs and great notes at the end. Valhalla when I die!
Feb 07, 2008 Kirsten rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a really excellent collection. The myths are retold with humor and enthusiasm, and Crossley-Holland's notes are excellent. A lot of times it's hard to find collections of myths that are well-documented and scholarly (rather than simply being retellings that don't list the source material) but are still readable as complete stories rather than being fragmentary. This collection lands right on the money.
Mar 19, 2009 Patrick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of J.R.R. Tolkien, fantasy readers
Awesome, awesome book, and certainly a must-read for fans of Tolkien or fans of fantasy literature in general. Kevin Crossley-Holland draws from several primary and secondary sources to deliver a complete and academic study of the Norse myths.
May 29, 2016 Nikhil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: epic
A highly enjoyable retelling of the Norse myths. While the author adds to existing textual sources (largely to make the myths readable and enjoyable once more), he is always clear about how/where he does this and has numerous references to the original texts for the curious reader. Given how closely the author follows Snorri Sturlusson's Prose Edda, I am tempted to simply read that and see if this author's alterations are substantial.

Some of the myths are fantastic (e.g. Binding of Loki, Thor go
Jan 18, 2015 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well Mickey, since you nagged me - this is my first entry.

The myths are pretty good, the start and end notes take a certain amount of plowing through - perhaps more for the full on anthropologist or someone really into the historical background. I enjoyed the myths, however they could do with being a bit lengthier (more story like) although I think that is a general issue with reading all sorts (Greek / Roman etc) unless you are studying them. Still some note reading to do - he certainly has a
Jul 04, 2011 Rebecca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: norse-fantasy
When I first recieved this book I thought it would be like one similarly titled that I'd read before but I was greatly suprised to learn I was wrong. The other book had the more classic and popular myths whereas this book contained prose translations of all the norse myths/legends/sagas taken from Snorri Sturllsons Poetic Edda series. Which of course does contain some of the classics but there were many out of the 35 that I haven't heard let alone read before. And each new myth not only helped m ...more
Jul 19, 2012 Don rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like so many of the folk tales and myths of a particular culture, the problem one encounters in wanting to read "the Norse myths" consists at least in part in figuring out just what tales to read, and in what order; so many of them interrelate that it can be a dizzying prospect to even know where to start. In this, then, Kevin Crossley-Holland's excellent book is nothing short of stellar. Exhaustively researched, this collection retells a series of thirty-two Norse myths - some rightly famed, ot ...more
David Gullen
Feb 25, 2013 David Gullen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I hugely enjoyed this re-telling of the myths. The tales are by turns strange, bizarre, outrageous, bloodthirsty and poignant. Crossley-Holland is a gifted writer and poet and brings emotional intensity and vivid realism to these intense and at times enigmatic stories. The detailed explanations and analysis of each tale at the back of the book are a useful and interesting resource.

There are two types of story in these myths - the wildly implausible adventures, including drinking bouts, seduction
May 20, 2015 Andrew rated it really liked it
The collected Scandinavian myth cycle, with each myth accompanied by in-depth notes, if you desire that sort of thing. Favourite part starts with Balder's Dreams, which is the beginning of the end, and move towards Ragnarok, the pagan Norse Apocalypse. These tales will seep into the world that I witness: the wolves forever pursuing the sun and moon across the sky, Loki's writhing in chains that causes earthquakes.
Feb 05, 2015 Phoebe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Embarrassing to admit this -- since I dated (for 4 years) a wonderful man who eventually went on to get a PhD focusing on Viking burials -- but... I've never really been able to get excited about the grim dude-fest that is Norse Mythology. Until this book. Told by Kevin Crossley-Holland, the stories actually feel exciting now! I read one every night, and when I'm done I'm even motivated to go to the notes section to read its background. A great first book on Norse mythology. P.S. I still roll my ...more
Jeffrey Russom
Feb 28, 2015 Jeffrey Russom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent read I highly recommend for anyone. Crossley creates a fine, readable catalog of the surviving Norse myths in an approachable style that is both entertaining and educational. Myths are presented in a sensical chronological order such that later myths are easier to understand (e.g. the myth detailing the origin of Thor's hammer is presented before myths telling of tales in which Thor's hammer is stolen or lost). This makes the presentation very episodic and easy to read.

The book cata
Apr 18, 2015 Duncan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Crossley-Holland seems to think he knows the Norse myths, which he apparently learned at the knee (or upon the knees) of a particularly strict and perhaps licentious Catholic priest. He mixes up Mimir and Kvaser, misspells the Teutonic Tiw as Tiwaz, seems obsessed with 'proving' a relationship between the Norse Gods and the Indian pantheon, and worse, seems to revel in self-glorifying "notes" which often take up more space than his pathetic and limited retellings of the myths themselves. If, in ...more
May 02, 2013 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I knew very little about Norse mythology when starting this book, and I'm very glad I sat down to read it. The Norse Myths are fascinating and the themes and influences are so different from the typical Greek and Roman stuff that I've read in the past. This book was refreshing fiction.

In addition, the author provided excellent context for the myths by giving readers loads of background history and notes. The extra depth made for a much richer experience.
Rick Riordan

The Sword of Summer

So, October 6, 2015 is the much anticipated launch of Riordan's new series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer. THIS IS THE REASON I slogged through Crossley-Holland's Norse myths. I wanted to familiarize myself with the world of Norse mythology. Crossley-Holland does a fine job of putting his collection of Norse myths into perspective and backing them up with copious notations and a bibliography for further reading. He's done his research. If
Paul Haspel
Mar 22, 2015 Paul Haspel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Norse myths loom up through the winter mists, cold and grim and wondrous. They are bleak, fatalistic tales of gods who not only are doomed but know their doom: they know exactly how they will die, and the only question is when Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods, will occur. Perhaps that is part of why the Norse myths have such power: the Norse gods live in the constant knowledge and contemplation of their frailty and mortality, just as we do.

In The Norse Myths, Kevin Crossley-Holland, an Eng
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Kevin Crossley-Holland is a well-known poet and prize-winning author for children. His books include Waterslain Angels, a detective story set in north Norfolk in 1955, and Moored Man: A Cycle of North Norfolk Poems; Gatty's Tale, a medieval pilgrimage novel; and the Arthur trilogy (The Seeing Stone, At the Crossing-Places and King of the Middle March), which combines historical fiction with the re ...more
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“Lif and Lifthrasir will have children. Their children will have children.
There will be life and new life, life everywhere on earth. That was the end; and this is the beginning.”
“The three sons of Bor had no liking for Ymir... At last they attacked Ymir and killed him. His wounds were like springs; so much blood streamed from them and so fast, that the flood drowned all the frost giants except Bergelmir and his wife. They embarked in their boat and rode out on a tide of gore” 2 likes
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