Roger Lancelyn Green has great skill in editing and putting together stories from one “legend” and make them appear as a continuous narrative. I loved his King Arthur book and the Robin Hood themed one as well. But I have to admit I was not too sure about Myths of the Norsemen. Not in a bad way. But let me explain.
I did not know much about the Northern Mythology before last year either. But I helped out with a theatre production, where we all did copious amounts of background research. So I sat down and with the Edda (a collection of old stories and myths from Icleand) dived into the world of Thor, Loki and Odin and really got a feel for their world and the old story telling.
There is something really special about it. I can imagine it’s not for everyone, but I simply love all the audacious and outrageous ideas people had come up with. Loki turns himself into a salmon to hide from the Æsir. Thor is dressing up in drag to get his hammer Miolnir back. Or a Giantess demands “Make me laugh or I kill you all”. It’s a wondrous world, the world of the Northern Gods.
And that is where Roger Lancelyn Green’s version differed sometimes and I missed some parts. He glossed over a few things. Of course a cut down version of any source will have to lose something. For readability, for a new audience, for length. That’s a perfectly natural process. And even though I understand that, I was looking forward to a certain turn of phrase or an especially outrageous (but fun) scene, but it they didn’t appear. I know why they were cut, but all the while reading this version I felt like picking up the original Edda poems.
Don’t get me wrong. It is another great accomplishment of Roger Lancelyn Green’s as an editor and if you don’t know anything about Northern Mythology, this is the place to start for you. It’s easy to follow, reads nicely and includes all major songs and stories from the Elder and Younger Edda. But I was missing the depth of the source material, which comes partly from it being so fragmented. You simply feel there is so much more to it, so much more in the background, whereas in Green’s edit everything seems to flow neatly together. While that is a great accomplishment, it somehow loses the original taste for me. The raw edges are somehow smoothed if that makes sense.
Roger Lancelyn Green has compiled a few collections of old legends, which I absolutely love. It isn’t any different for The Myths of the Norsemen, but knowing the source material it was difficult for me to put it out of my mind and adapt to his changes. For anyone who wants a first glimpse into the world of the Æsir, read this book! It’s a perfect introduction. Once you are a little more familiar with the characters you can then go on to the Edda if you wish, as it will make things much easier knowing a little about the world already.