No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Saturday, April 18, 2009

#29: Odd and the Frost Giants -- Neil Gaiman

"We won't die," said the bear. "Because we can't die here. But we'll get hungry. And we'll get more wild. More animal. It's something that happens when you have taken on animal form. Stay in it too long and you become what you pretend to be. When Loki was a horse --"
"We don't talk about that," said the fox. (p. 33)

Hilarious little tale, full of dark nuance for older readers (or those with a precocious interest in Norse myth), this is the story of Odd, a crippled half-Scots, half-Viking boy who runs away from home. It's not quite like the ballads his mother sings to him. Instead of a horse, a hound and a hawk, he finds himself in the company of a bear, a fox and an eagle (the last given to monosyllabic screeches).

They are, of course, not what they seem.

I'm impressed by how much nastiness Mr Gaiman can squeeze into a slim children's book: sacrifice, murder, the trade in Freya's favours, Loki's unsavoury past ... It's all quite wholesome and above-board, if you don't know what's going on.

And I do tend to like Loki in modern fiction, though this Loki isn't quite Diana Wynne Jones' Luke or Gaiman's Low-Key Lyesmith: the fox here is no exception. ("It's all your fault!" "I admit it. But you can't just focus on the bad stuff." (p.85)) Great fun.

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