Sunday, 20 April 2008

Odd and the Frost Giants - Neil Gaiman

Sometimes you have to be odd to save the world.

This is the story of the Viking boy Odd. Although his name meant “tip of a blade” and it was a lucky name, he was actually odd. Nobody in the village could understand his thoughts and his smile would drive them crazy. Even when his father died trying to save a pony from drowning, he only shrugged and smiled. Even when he broke his foot cutting a big tree with his father’s axe, and remained crippled for life, he just smiled.
After two years from his father’s death, his mother, a Scottish woman who used to sing beautiful ballads, re-married Fat Elfred, a big guy with too many kids of his own to care about a crippled stepson, so Odd spent most of his time in the woods.
One year, though, the spring failed to arrive. The frost didn’t thaw when it should have, and the people got more and more nervous in the great hall, after four months of staring at each other. They started fights and tell mean jokes, until Odd decided he had enough and ran away.
He packed some salmon and some embers from the fire, and went to his father’s cabin in the woods, with the firm intention of never coming back.

This is where he met a strange fox, a huge bear and an eagle, who seemed to need his help, and that’s how the adventures of a crippled and odd boy began.
He would go to Asgard, the land of Gods, he would confront a Frost Giant, meet the gods, and eventually save the world. All just by being himself.

I love this little tale. It’s funny and uplifting. Odd was a lovable character, with his infuriating smile and his calm matter-of-factly attitude. The gods, especially Thor and Loki, were hilarious, in their endless squabbles. The ending was perfect.

It also made me think about Gaiman’s choice of crippled characters. I’ve only read three stories by him, and in two of them, the main characters (Odd here and Yvaine in Stardust) limp throughout the story. These are fantasy books and you would expect that in the end, when the hero has saved the world, or when it’s time for a happily-ever-after, that these problems would be solved by magic of some sorts. Instead, magic can only ease their pain, but never restore their bones to complete health.
On one hand it shows the unchangeable consequences of accidents. On the other, it seems to say that these characters are hero not despite their disabilities, but because of them.

All in all this was extremely enjoyable, a perfect bedtime story and a great introduction to Norse mythology for kids. It is also a must read for any Neil Gaiman’s fan.

other blog reviews:
Nymeth at Things mean a lot
Chris at Stuff as dreams are made on
Alix at Not enough bookshelves


Ana S. said...

That's an interesting observation about crippled characters. I had never thought of that.

I'm glad you enjoyed this one so much! As you know, I did as well :D

Bunny B said...

My hubby got excited when he saw this book in my pile :) I can't wait to read it after him! Thanks so much Valentina!


Melody said...

Have been hearing raves about this book, so I definitely have to add this to my wishlist! Thanks, Valentina!

valentina said...

Nymeth, yes, I wonder if it was intentional of just a coincidence...

bunny, I'm really glad they arrived safely to you, and that I made to people happy!

melody, it is a very charming little book and it's definitely worth reading. I hope you can find it.
but if you can't let know cause I should still have some spare copies:)