Introduced by Kevin Crossley-Holland
Illustrated by Jane Lydbury
The inspiration behind generations of literature and storytelling, the mythology that drove the Vikings is retold here with vitality and humour.
The Viking world was one of opposites – light and dark, volcanoes and glaciers, famine and plenty – and its mythology reflected those extremes. First published in 1980, Kevin Crossley-Holland’s superb retelling of The Norse Myths gave new access to a magical and fascinating world, in which monsters and giants pitted themselves against gods and heroes. We may be familiar with Odin ‘Allfather’, reigning in Asgard, with the stories of Thor and Freyja and Balder the Beautiful, and with the vengeful plottings of Loki, but here are less familiar figures, from Odin’s ravens Thought and Memory to Skadi, the ski goddess, ‘that crouched dark shape sweeping across the desolate snowscapes’. Reading these tales, we see why they proved such a fruitful source to J. R. R. Tolkien and other novelists.
In his detailed introduction, Crossley-Holland recalls how W. H. Auden first told him to: ‘look North and immerse myself on the bracing floes of Norse mythology’. A gifted storyteller as well as a scholar, Crossley-Holland brings out the tales’ humour, vivid characterisation and moving descriptions, ‘using good blunt words with Anglo-Saxon roots’. The wood engravings by Jane Lydbury show scenes such as Freyja in her chariot drawn by cats, and the dwarves at the furnace creating the Necklace of the Brisings.
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