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Neil Gaiman On Writing Myths

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman


Neil Gaiman discusses his love of myths, his favourite Norse goddess and how tone of voice became a particular challenge to overcome when writing Norse Mythology....


When did you first start reading myths?

I first encountered the Norse gods in an English reprint of Marvel comics when I was about six, maybe seven years old. That was how I first met Thor, and I wanted to know more about them. And my friend Steven had a copy of Myths of the Norsemen by Roger Lancelyn Green. And so I would go over to his house and I would read it. But the one I remember falling in love with, was the point where Thor and Loki have camped out for the night in a most peculiar house, and it's not until morning they realise that they were in a giant's mitten. And that I remember just loving. I think partly loving because of what it does to your idea of the sense of scale. I took enormous joy in retelling that story in Norse Mythology.

What draws you to the Norse myths?

I love myths. I am an absolute myth junkie. I think they are all of them wonderful and delightful, all of them deserve to be retold. But there's something in the Norse that is dark and weird. It comes with Ragnarok. Most myth cycles don't come with the End of Days. But there's something about the Norse myths that feel peculiarly complete. Even though we know we're missing hundreds of fantastic stories, there are gods and goddesses that we know exist, but we have no idea what their stories are.

Do you have a favourite god or goddess?

I guess if I had to pick, definitely my favourite goddess is Freya. Because she gets so fantastically grumpy. And you feel like she is, yes she's beautiful. she's also really smart. She also realises much more than anybody else seems to, what idiots the other gods are.

What are you most proud of in Norse Mythology?

I think what I'm most proud of is the tone of voice. I felt like I I found a way to tell old stories that didn't feel old. Sometimes it feels important, but I wanted the stories to feel immediate. I wanted them to feel contemporary. Even if they're contemporary looking back a long way. I wanted the gods to feel like people we knew, and I think I managed it. And if I'm proudest of anything that's what I'm proudest of.


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Neil Gaiman has written highly acclaimed books for both children and adults and is the first author to have won both the Carnegie and Newbery Medals for the same work – The Graveyard Book. The L.A. Times has described his multi-million-selling graphic novel series Sandman as 'the greatest epic in the history of comic books'. Many of his books, including Coraline and Stardust, have been made into films, Neverwhere has been adapted for tv and radio and American Gods is in development as a major HBO series. He has also written two amazing episodes of Doctor Who and appeared in The Simpsons as himself. In 2013 he published his first adult novel for seven years, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which received stellar reviews and was a bestseller around the world. For more on Neil Gaiman and his award-winning children's books, visit www.gaimanbooks.com