Edited to add: This is my most viewed post on my old blog and most relevant with Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology and American Gods series being so popular right now. I used an Audible credit to hear that version as a sneaky way to get around my no new books 2017 pledge. That clearly is an epic fail as I’m buying this in book form ASAP. That pledge lasted all the way in April before I decided that new books are essential to my life force. I love hearing Neil read the myths and highly recommend either version. His take on the myths is brilliant. This collection is completely child-friendly and although sometimes disturbing always funny. I’m running this again to bring it up to the top and hope it is helpful in helping you choose more great books on Norse Mythology- my very favorite subject.
I thought I’d start with my favorite myths. If you haven’t read the original myths, know that the tales are layered in complexity compared to the Marvel comic versions. After we had begun homeschooling and I read more than the few Greek myths that we read in school, I felt drawn to the Norse culture. I found the proverbs in the Havamal both practical and sage:
“A man who has his feet hacked off cannot scurry far.”
“The foolish man lies awake all night Thinking of his many problems; When the morning comes he is worn out And his trouble is just as it was.”
“To be without silver is better than to be without honor.”
After Odin had sacrificed himself to receive the knowledge to allow him to wield the runes he said:
Then I was fertilized and grew wise;
I truly grew and thrived
From a word to a word I was led to a word,
From a work to a work I was led to a work.
Odin continually sacrifices to achieve more knowledge. He presents a model of personal development. The songs sung in his honor tell of how he wasn’t afraid to sacrifice what we might call his “lower self” to his “higher self,” to live according to his values unconditionally, accepting whatever hardships arise from that pursuit and allowing nothing, not even death, to stand between him and the attainment of his goals. I think that no matter what faith you hold that there are lessons to be learned from all religions and their mythos.
Someday, I hope to have bookshelves that will contain original sections of books. Right now, my books are shelved by size. It looks lovely, but it is hard to find books sometimes. Especially, now that my bookshelves are double stacked in some places. I dragged the ladder out this morning and pulled my favorite Norse books down. As always, read the book yourself first, so you don’t have to edit on the fly while reading aloud. Ask me how I know.
Odd and the Frost Giants– Written by Neil Gaiman. It is a great intro for kids to hear a retelling of several Norse myths and get a good grasp of who’s who.
D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths– If you don’t know about this awesome husband/wife team read here and get yourself to a library. Anything that they wrote that is on the shelf deserves a read aloud by you.
The Children of Odin: The Book of Northern Myths– Written as a narrative with beautiful pictures.
Middle School/ High School:
The Norse Myths (The Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library)– This is a comprehensive introduction to the Norse myths.
Myths of the Norsemen (Puffin Classics)– A good intro for kids 10 and up. Tells Tales from the Tree of Life to Ragnarok
Gods and Myths of Northern Europe– More scholarly but a thorough retelling of the stories and an overview of the deities.
From Asgard to Valhalla: The Remarkable History of the Norse Myths– This one I like except for the obvious bias of the Christian author. We talked about it and moved on.
The Saga of the Volsungs (Legends from the Ancient North)-This is a beautiful edition of the poetry that inspired both Wagner and Tolkien.
The Vinland Sagas (Penguin Classics)– Consisting of The Saga of the Greenlanders and Eirik the Red’s Saga, they chronicle the adventures of Eirik the Red and his son, Leif Eriksson.
The Sagas of Icelanders: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)-This volume offers nine full sagas and six tales, all new translations by various hands and all part of The Complete Sagas of the Icelanders, also edited by Thorsson. Published to mark the 1000th anniversary of Leif Eriksson’s voyage to North America, as told in the Vinland Sagas.
The Prose Edda: Norse Mythology (Penguin Classics)– Written in Iceland a century after the close of the Viking Age, The Prose Edda is the source of most of what we know of Norse mythology.
Ibn Fadlan and the Land of Darkness: Arab Travelers in the Far North (Penguin Classics)– a travel journal of an Arab man Ibn Farland and his trip to the North.
The Sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok– Stories that may or may not be right about Ragnar.
The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún– The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún is a previously unpublished work by J.R.R. Tolkien, written while Tolkien was Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford during the 1920s and ‘30s before he wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
Viking Language 1 Learn Old Norse, Runes, and Icelandic Sagas (Viking Language Series)– This one is on my wish list so I can’t tell you much other than the description: Learn Old Norse, Runes, and Icelandic Sagas” provides everything necessary to learn Old Norse, Runes, and tackle Icelandic sagas. Graded lessons, saga readings, runic inscriptions, grammar exercises, pronunciation, maps, cultural sections, student guide, and vocabulary teach about Vikings, Iceland, old Scandinavia, myths, and legends.