The best books if you came to Norse mythology via Marvel comics

The Books I Picked & Why

D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths

By Ingri D'Aulaire, Edgar Parin D'Aulaire

Book cover of D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths

Why this book?

Originally titled Norse Gods and Giants, for many people this book will have been their first exposure to Norse mythology. It may be aimed at children, from the plain, precise text by Norwegian-born Ingri D’Aulaire to the vivid, earthy pencil illustrations by her Swiss-born husband, but the telling of the tales is wonderfully rambunctious and has an all-ages appeal.

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Thor: Tales Of Asgard

By Jack Kirby, Stan Lee

Book cover of Thor: Tales Of Asgard

Why this book?

This series of short back-up strips in the 1960s Thor comic from Marvel retold and embellished on the myths in characteristically bombastic Lee/Kirby fashion. While Thor himself, in the main feature, battled costumed supervillains in contemporary New York, the supporting feature dealt with his youth, his allies and enemies in Asgard itself and the rest of the Nine Realms, and a whole host of sorcerers, witches, and grotesque monsters. Kirby in particular seemed enthused by the project and it shows in his artwork.

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Norse Mythology

By Neil Gaiman

Book cover of Norse Mythology

Why this book?

Gaiman’s love of Norse mythology was sparked when he discovered the aforementioned Tales of Asgard as a boy. He has incorporated elements of the myths in his fiction, from Sandman to American Gods, and with this book took it upon himself to re-present the stories in his own laid-back, laconic style, relishing in their vivacity and sheer strangeness. An unusually perspicacious reviewer – one James Lovegrove, in the Financial Times – gave the following assessment: "In reinterpreting the tales so faithfully and with such abundant joy, Gaiman assumes the role of fireside bard, inviting us to sit close on a chilly winter’s night and chuckle and wonder along with him.”

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The Prose Edda

By Snorri Sturluson, Jesse L. Byock

Book cover of The Prose Edda

Why this book?

This is the primary source for the myths, culled by 13th-century poet Sturluson, and it spans everything from the creation of the Nine Realms to their ultimate destruction during Ragnarök, the twilight of the gods. There is a sense of struggle and doom throughout the saga, interspersed with moments of light relief, and anyone whose exposure to characters such as Thor and Odin comes only from the Marvel movies may be surprised at how dumb and brutish the former is here, and how fierce and forbidding the latter.

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Gods and Myths of Northern Europe

By H.R. Ellis Davidson

Book cover of Gods and Myths of Northern Europe

Why this book?

This is less about the myths themselves and more about the culture that spawned them. Ellis Davidson’s analysis of Nordic pre-Christian religion is sober but accessible, and comparisons are made with other contemporary belief systems such as the Celts’ and the ancient Britons’. The book nicely ties together the disparate tales much as the world tree, Yggdrasil, is said to have tied together the Nine Realms.

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