Far more marvelous than Marvel

Norse Mythology
By Neil Gaiman
304 pp. W.W. Norton & Company. $16.

Back in the fall of 2006, I was a sophomore in college. Along with my required classes that semester, like college mathematics (ugh), I was allowed an elective class. I didn’t ponder long before choosing HUM 2310: Mythology.

My love of mythology predated that class, but I look back now and recall that class fondly. In particular, it was the professor I recalled fondly, Dr. Taylor. She was young and, yes, very attractive. There was also something quite mysterious about her, and you could somehow tell in the way she spoke, in the way her eyes flittered over yours, that she was a highly complex individual with a deeply mischievous side. All of which, of course, made her the perfect professor for a course on mythology.

Despite that class and the other reading I have done, it’s always been Greek Mythology that’s really stuck with me. The Greek Gods are just such fascinating characters in their own right, far more interesting than the Judeo-Christian God, for example. But what makes them most fascinating is that they’re essentially little more than flawed — make that highly flawed — people, albeit people with extraordinary powers. 

Norse Mythology, though, was something I didn’t know all that much about. Yes, I’d heard of Thor, Odin, Loki, and Freya — i.e. the major players — but I didn’t actually know the mythology, the stories.

A digression: I despise comic book movies. Even as a child I hated comic books and superheroes. Except Batman. Yes, Batman I liked, but that was because he wasn’t a superhero at all, just something of a psychotic billionaire, so those movies — at least the Christopher Nolan ones — are alright.

Which is to say that I won’t watch those stupid Marvel movies regardless of whether they’re about Ant-Man and the Wasp or Thor. As for The Avengers, why do you need the other avengers if one of them, Thor, is a GOD? Can someone explain that to me? And what does Scarlett Johansson add except a halfhearted attempt by the studio to convince the majority of ticket buyers they’re not just grown men pathetically reliving their childhood fantasies of being superheroes, but grown men pathetically reliving their teenage fantasies of being with Scarlett Johansson? 

Whether the Marvel “Thor” movies actually address why Thor’s hammer isn’t big enough for him to grip in both hands, or how Odin lost his eye, isn’t something I can say, but I’m certain that whatever joy may be found in watching any Marvel movie pales in comparison to the delight one gets from reading, or listening to, these wonderfully spun myths (digression over).

In Neil Gaiman’s “Norse Mythology” you’ll come away with a newfound appreciation for myths that are every bit as interesting as their Greek counterparts, just without all the rape.

Another thing the Norse myths have going for them?

Loki, who surely has to be one of the most fascinating characters ever conjured up.

I was one of the few who wasn’t awed by Gaiman’s “American Gods”, but here’s hoping he makes “Norse Mythology” the first of a new series. The world’s myths need a hero to bring them back into the public eye. Gaiman can do that far more intelligently, and far more compellingly, than any Marvel movie.

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