The Best Books On Norse Myths

Alice Mills Author Of The World Treasury of Myths & Legends
By Alice Mills

The Books I Picked & Why

Norse Myths: Gods of the Vikings

By Kevin Crossley-Holland

Norse Myths: Gods of the Vikings

Why this book?

The way these stories are phrased here makes this my favourite set of retellings. Crossley-Holland’s choice of words evokes the original Norse. He uses alliteration, mainly when describing land and sea, and he is very careful to use words that come from Old English, a sister language to Old Norse, in preference to words from Latin, Greek, and post-Latin languages. There are plenty of other retellings that cover similar ground, but none with quite this joy in the energy of the original.


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The Norse Myths: Stories of The Norse Gods and Heroes Vividly Retold

By Tom Birkett

The Norse Myths: Stories of The Norse Gods and Heroes Vividly Retold

Why this book?

This volume covers a lot of ground, from myths of the gods to hero tales to historical figures and the discovery of America. It stands out for me because of the illustrations, which range from ancient Norse carvings to superhero films. Above all, the book abounds with fine nineteenth and early twentieth-century book illustrations and a host of paintings from the Renaissance onwards, a feast for the eyes.


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Eight Days of Luke

By Diana Wynne Jones

Eight Days of Luke

Why this book?

The Norse gods enjoyed hiding their identities and fooling their enemies (usually with bloody results). Wynne Jones’ fantasy novel for young adults and above is a dazzling trickster tale set in modern England, its main character a wretchedly mistreated boy who has adventures with… She gives plenty of clues to work out the Norse identities, but the worst tricksters are only revealed unexpectedly on the last pages.


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The Prose Edda

By Snorri Sturluson, Jesse L. Byock

The Prose Edda

Why this book?

This translation, in the ever-reliable Penguin Classics series, is a good introduction to the scholarship of Norse Myth. It contains lots of little facts that the retellers usually omit and has helpful genealogical tables and a discussion of kennings, those tiny riddle-games that the Norse poets liked to play with their audience and that all retellers I know have omitted as too hard. The Prose Edda is as close as English-speaking readers are going to get to the original unless they learn Old Norse.


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Doom of the Gods

By Michael Harrison, Tudor Humphries

Doom of the Gods

Why this book?

This is a vigorous retelling of the last battle of the Norse gods and their enemies, how the gods tried to avert their doom, how they first met those who would kill almost all of them, and what happened after all the slaughter and destruction. The book has the size and format of a typical picture storybook but its powerful illustrations of threat and attack make it more suitable for an older audience.


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