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Norse mythology is an endlessly fascinating topic which has had a profound impact on modern culture, and there have been many books written about the subject throughout history. With all the books available on the market today, it can be tough to decide which one to buy, regardless of whether you’re a beginner or a Norse myth expert. To make things easier, here’s a list of books on Norse mythology which don’t require any prior knowledge on the topic.
The Prose Edda – Snorri Sturluson (Translated by Jesse L. Byock)
Written by Snorri Sturluson in the early 13th century after the end of the Viking Age, The Prose Edda is one of the originals in the storytelling of Norse mythology. It’s an excellent book to start with for a Norse mythology beginner since it tells the story from the creation of the world to Ragnarok. This translation by Jesse Byock’s stays true to the original Old Icelandic text by capturing its complexity and robustness.
The Poetic Edda – Snorri Sturluson (Translated by Jackson Crawford)
In the world of literature, The Poetic Edda has been considered a work of overwhelming beauty and unbelievable vision. Compiled by Snorri Sturluson and translated by Jackson Crawford, this book is a comprehensive collection of ancient Norse poems that were written by anonymous poets during and just after the Viking Age. While Crawford’s translation is clearly easy to understand and clearly written, it also manages to preserve the beauty of the original text. This compilation of poems is considered the most important source of information on Norse religion and mythology.
Gods and Myths of Northern Europe – H.R. Ellis Davidson
Hilda Davidson’s Gods and Myths of Northern Europe is a great book for beginners interested in learning about the religion of the Germanic and Norse peoples. It provides a comprehensive overview of Norse mythology with detailed descriptions of not just the most popular characters, but also the lesser known gods of the age. Although it’s an academic book, the writing captures the attention and curiosity of the reader, which is what makes it one of the most popular books on Norse mythology available on the market.
Norse Mythology – Neil Gaiman
This book by fiction writer Neil Gaiman is a retelling of a selection of well-known Norse myths that have inspired many of early works such as American Gods. Although the book contains just a few of the many Viking myths, Gaiman includes the most important ones such as the origin of the world and its downfall. While the number of myths are limited, they’re excellently written in a novelistic form with lots of detail. The only downside is that it contains only the stories and not much of a discussion about Norse religion or where the myths came from. However, for someone interested in just the stories, this is the book for you.
The D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths – Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire
The D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths is considered one of the best children’s books on Norse mythology, written specifically for ages 5-9. The writing is evocative and very easy to understand while the descriptions and retellings of the famous Norse characters and tales are sure to grab your child’s attention. The pictures are beautiful and the content is family-friendly since all the lurid elements of the stories that many find unsuitable for children are excluded.
The Viking Spirit: An Introduction to Norse Mythology and Religion – Daniel McCoy
Written to scholarly standards, The Viking Spirit is a collection of 34 Norse myths, beautifully retold by Daniel McCoy. The book provides a comprehensive overview of the Viking religion and of Norse mythology. Each story is told in a simple, clear and entertaining way that grabs the attention of the reader. It’s packed with information about the Viking deities, the Viking ideas of fate and afterlife, the way they practiced religion, the importance of magic in their lives and so much more.
Myth and Religion of the North: The Religion of Ancient Scandinavia – E.O.G. Turville-Petre
Myth and Religion of the North by E.O.G. Turville-Petre is another popular academic work on Norse mythology. The work is a classic, and considered by many to be the definitive scholastic work on the subject. It provides a comprehensive overview of the Ancient Scandinavian religion, with in-depth discussions and academic speculation and insight. It’s used in numerous universities around the world and is mostly treated as a go-to reference book for everything related to Norse mythology. However, if you’re looking for a beginner friendly book on the subject, it’s best to skip this one.
The Gospel of Loki – Joanne M. Harris
Written by the New York Times bestselling author Joanne M. Harris, The Gosepl of Loki is a fantastic narrative retold from the perspective of Loki, the mischievous Norse god of trickery. The book is about the story of the Norse gods and Loki’s cunning exploits that led to the fall of Asgard. The character of Loki is depicted brilliantly, making this book a must-read for anyone who’s a fan of the Norse god.
The Sea of Trolls – Nancy Farmer
The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer is a fantasy novel that follows the story of an eleven year old boy, Jack, and his sister, who are captured by Vikings in the year A.D. 793. Jack is sent on a a nearly impossible quest to find Mimir’s Magical Well in a far-off land. Failing isn’t an option, as it would mean the end of his sister’s life. The book is full of the traditional elements of a great fantasy – warriors, dragons, trolls and various other monsters from Norse mythology. The storytelling is simple and humorous.
The Sagas of Icelanders – Jane Smiley
The Saga of Icelanders is a story rich with the history of the Nordic men and women who first settled in Iceland, then Greenland and finally the North American coast before returning to where they started. The book consists of seven short tales and ten sagas that narrate the pioneering voyage of the Norse explorer Leiv Eiriksson. The enthralling storytelling makes it ideal for anyone wanting to take a closer look at the ancient history of the Nordic people. Note that while this book isn’t about Norse mythology per se, it provides a great backdrop to understanding the context and people that made the mythology possible.
The Saga of the Volsungs (Translated by Jackson Crawford)
This translation by Jackson Crawford brings to life sagas and stories that aren’t often at the forefront of our minds when we think about Norse mythology. It’ll introduce you to Nordic legends like the dragon slayer Sigurd, Brynhild the Valkyrie, and the saga of the legendary Viking hero Ragnar Lothbrok. The text offers the opportunity to explore Viking thought and stories, and to understand who these people were.
We Are Our Deeds – Eric Wodening
Eric Wodening’s We Are Our Deeds is a well-written, detailed book that delves deep into the virtues and ethics of the ancient Nordic and Viking people. It gives the reader a close look at their culture and their views of good and evil, crime and punishment, law, family and sin. It’s an essential read for those seeking the Heathen Worldview and is packed with valuable information.
Rudiments of Runelore – Stephen Pollington
This book by Stephen Pollington provides a useful guide to the ancient runes of Norse mythology. Pollington discusses the origins and meanings of the runes, and has also included translations of several riddles and rune poems from Norway, Iceland and England. While the book is rich with information and academic research, it’s also easy to read and understand. If you’re interested in learning everything you possibly can about Nordic lore, this is the book for you.
Norse Gods – Johan Egerkrans
Norse Gods is a retelling of some of the most imaginative and exciting sagas of Norse mythology, from the origins of the world to Ragnarok, the final destruction of the gods. The book contains gorgeous illustrations of heroes, giants, dwarves, gods and many other characters presented in all their glory. It’s a great work for avid fans of Norse mythology as well as for beginners and suits readers for all ages.
Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs – John Lindow
Professor Lindow’s book explores the magical legends and myths of Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Greenland during the Viking Age. The book is divided into three main sections. It begins with a clear and detailed introduction of the history of Scandinavian mythology, followed by a section that describes mythic time and a third section that provides in-depth explanations of all the key mythological terms. While it’s not a great stand-alone book, it certainly is an excellent reference book to have on hand when reading other books about Norse mythology.
Want to learn about the best books on Greek mythology? Check out our reviews here.