Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Odd and The Frost Giants

Odd and The Frost Giants
Neil Gaiman
Illustrated by Mark Buckingham

"There was a boy called Odd, and there was nothing strange or unusual about that, not in that time or place". With an opening line like that, it is difficult not to fall in love with this story.

Neil Gaiman has a way with his imagination, whether it is a button eyes in Coraline or the boy being raised in grave yard or the fight between the old Gods and new Gods in America or the wolves whispering from inside the walls, that can weave a tapestry enticing a wide variety of age groups.

Odd, a kid with a rather odd name (sorry, could not help writing that!) lives with his mother and foster father in a village in Norway. One particular winter stretches on and on, with no spring at sight. Odd decides to walk out of the village and live in his father forest cabin, away from all the villagers who consider him to be different. He comes across a strange group of animals - a bear, a fox and an eagle. He rescues the enormous bear, whose paw is stuck in a tree. He soon learns that these animals are the Gods - Thor, Odin and Loki. They are stuck in their animal forms due to a frost giant that has taken over their home, the legendary Asgard.

It is almost forgone conclusion that the Odd has to rescue the Gods. How he does this with his charming smile forms the rest of the story.

This book is based on the Norse mythology. It is not surprising that the most powerful God in Norse mythology is Thor (a god responsible for thunder) - much similar to Indian mythology's god of Thunder, Indra. Most of the initial gods seem to be nature based and slowly as man kind started understanding the nature, the Gods got replaced. A quick look at the Gods based on Thunder in various mythologies from wikipedia throws a pretty big list - Thunder Gods. The stories and myths of old world give us an insight into the fears of mankind during that period. Irrespective of the region, the myths delve on the same fear - the fear of nature - the awesomeness and fickleness of nature.

Gaiman uses the various Gods, characters and locations of Norse mythology for this wonderful story. Even if one has not read about Norse mythology, a reading of this book would generate interest to start looking it up in the library or google.

Unlike his other book for kids, Coraline, this book has almost zero scare quotient. Although the topic being dwelt is almost weighty - "What would happen if the Frost Giants decide to take over the Gods and there is no spring at the end of winter?" - the language is simple and gives an impression that Odd is the smartest kid in the whole of Midgard(one of the 9 lands in Norse myth held by a immense tree). As soon as you read the first few pages, one feels like diving into the book to assuage the feelings of the frightened Gods and tell them - "There is nothing to worry. The spring will come to Scandinavia and Gods will be rescued. Believe in Odd".

If one is interested in mythology, read this book and get interested in Norse myth. If one is not interested in mythology, read this book for its wonderful story and beautiful writing.


Anusha said...

yay, another book for me!
Your description of setting & characters reminded me of Narnia.

Choxbox said...

Wow Neil Gaiman!

The book sounds awesome Sathish, will pick it up the myth-maniac in these parts.

artnavy said...

I loved your sum up lines- you make it sound really interesting!

Poppins said...

Norse Mythology. Sounds awesome. And yes most of our initial gods are Nature Gods. The more I red about other clutures the more I see how similar we all are. And culturally unique or not we all share the same blueprint - that's my takeaway from this CROCUS !

sandhya said...

Hear you on the mythology angle, Satish. And the names of the various lands in Norse mythology reminds one eerily of the Inheritance triology- Eragon, Eldest and Brsinger.

The myths of frost giants ruling also may be a pointer at ice ages? Maybe the book can be read in the context of environmental imbalance? Or as you put it, if one loves mythology or just a wonderful adventure story!

Thanks, Satish, for this.

utbtkids said...

I am sold :)

Who will not want to read a book in which there is nothing odd about having a main character whose name is Odd?

Sheela said...

A great pick, Satish, thanks for sharing! I can't wait to read it - not only for Norse mythology, but for the adventure as well. In his brilliant book The Third Chimpanzee, Jared Diamond talks about Proto-Indo_European (PIE) peoples, especially based on the linguistic evidence we've been able to reconstruct - we do seem to have a common root be it languages or deities...

Praba Ram said...

I like it for the wide range of age group appeal. A compelling review.

The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin was a recent find. Thought some fantasy fan parents here might enjoy the book and also check it out for their kids. It's more for elemenatary grade kids - ages 9 to 12!

One thing I'd have to admit though....with such gorgeous fall weather outside, I am really not ready for any icy, frosty reads! :)

Meera Sriram said...

What a story?! The plot is very convincing - how the frost giants need to be overthrown for Spring to arrive - I think kids can get this very easily and get wrapped up in the story. I could not help smiling when I read "Believe in Odd". I might have just enjoyed it for the story if not for this review:)

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