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The Penguin Book of Norse Myths: Gods of the Vikings
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The Penguin Book of Norse Myths: Gods of the Vikings

4.21 of 5 stars 4.21  ·  rating details  ·  3,200 ratings  ·  144 reviews

The Scandinavian myths form a linked chain of stories, creating a mighty, fantastical world teeming with gods and goddesses, master-smiths and magicians. Battles between gods and giants exist alongside unexpected love matches until the final days of destruction dawn, with their promise of rebirth.

Using his talents as poet, translator and author, Kevin Crossley-Holland bri

Kindle Edition, 312 pages
Published (first published July 12th 1980)
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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 sho
John Campbell
May 17, 2007 John Campbell rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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:
Aug 10, 2007 Sarah rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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.
Don Lloyd
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 3 of 5 stars  ·  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.
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.
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
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
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
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  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.
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
Mark Adderley
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
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
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.
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!
Old Man Scaps
The best collection of Norse Myths I've ever read. For me, it's because all of Crossley-Holland's translation decisions-- sources, syntax, vocabulary-- are made in the name of preserving the uniquely comic/tragic character of the gods. A delight to read.
This is the first book I have ever read about Norse myths so I can’t really judge how good the book is content-wise. The introduction was informative, but a bit dry. Then 32 myths were presented, differing in lengths and style. Some of the myths were familiar to me, others I had never heard of. Most of them were interesting, but a couple I found boring. Also the writing was inconsistent. Some myths were written better than others, and although the author explains his reasons for this in the intr ...more
I bought this collection of myths to expand my (small) collection of books about the Vikings. Having read a few books on the subject (incl. the The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson), I thought it would be fun reading again about the myths and what not of this era.

Kevin Crossley-Holland made a selection of myths, basing himself on various sagas and books written by various authors. In the large introduction he gives a detailed explanation of the Norse pantheon, the cosmology, the nine worlds, and s
Anika (Bookie Monster)
This review was originally posted on my blog: Saturday Night's Alright for Writing

I came to The Penguin Book of Norse Myths as a fan of The Avengers. I thought Thor and Loki were fascinating in the movies, both as individuals and in their dynamic with each other. I picked up this book to get a better understanding of where the characters came from and how they were adapted for Marvel's universe. The answer: they're very different.

The Norse gods are not necessarily likeable characters. Thor is a
A culture finds the gods it needs ... and the Norse world needed a god to justify the violence that is one of its hallmarks.

These gods, they are reflections of extremes, impulsive children with adult-like appearance that constantly organize new feats to kill boredom. After-life can only happen in Hel, and there is nothing one can do not to reach there because destiny is determined ("No man can deny Urd, even though her gifts are unearned.").
‘Fearlessness is better than a faint heart for an
I've been looking for suggestions for a good book about Norse Mythology for some time, and I found this in the Bibliography of American Gods (and the Sandman) on Neil Gaiman's homepage. This book is exactly what I wanted - a retelling of the Eddaic Poems in normal text / story form, easy to understand. Kevin Crossley-Holland has retold 32 Myths from collected sources, and always used the most likely source for the main story, sometimes embellishing small details from other sources.

There are all
David Manns
We are all familiar with the Norse Gods, whether we know it or not. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are named after three of them, the Vikings occupied large parts of England and their culture was assimilated into ours. But even so, the Greek Myths seem to be held in higher esteem for the simple reason that the Victorians looked to the classical world for inspiration rather than the rather bloodier tales of our Norse neighbours.

The Norse belief that only through fame in this life would your name
Kevin Crossley-Holland's The Norse Myths is a very competent collection of retellings of the tales and poems from the Poetic and Prose Eddas. As retellings (they are not translations), they are all in prose format, in a style that is at once part "old story" and part novelization. For myself, the two styles (though oftentimes they meshed well) felt jarring, especially when some of the language from the poems was retained (particularly repeated phrases). However, they are fairly easy to read, wri ...more
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
I strongly recommend this book for anyone seeking a better understanding of Norse mythology. In addition to a fine retelling of 32 well known stories, it contains a lengthy, well written introduction that covers the Norse World, Cosmology, Pantheon of Norse gods, and literary sources and structures of the myths. There are also detailed notes, an excellent glossary identifying personal and geographical names, a comprehensive bibliography, and index.

The stories are written by the author in languag
I knew most of these stories before, but this is the first time I sat down and read them (and yes, I still need to get to them in the edda form). The best part is that he combines all the versions into a more conclusive story (the notes in the back are a big help, in explaining the background and how the myths could have changed over time (Christianity's influence, for example)). I wish they had mentioned some more of the sagas, not just the stories of the gods, but they were still awesome to re ...more
Lee Broderick
Reading this straight after The Greek Myths was an absolute delight - the criticisms I made of that book were not simply met in this book but it provides an almost perfect example of the things I said that one should have been.

Kevin Crossley-Holland writes in his introduction of both the role of the Germanic and Norse Myths in European culture and of our available sources for them. Endnotes are provided for each myth offering a commentary on meanings and parallels which steer clear of didactici
Crossley-Holland presents translated versions of many of the Norse myths from various sources. Unfortunately all of the sources are necessarily quite late, well into the Christian era, making it uncertain how ancient the details might be. Also, Crossley-Holland often selects the legends from a handful of different versions and his notes often imply that he has chosen the less-interesting or later version to translate.

However, as a novice to the Norse religions, I found two significant takeaways.
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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
More about Kevin Crossley-Holland...
The Seeing Stone (Arthur Trilogy, #1) At the Crossing Places (Arthur Trilogy, #2) King of the Middle March (Arthur Trilogy, #3) The Anglo-Saxon World: An Anthology Crossing to Paradise

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