A review by C. Dean Andersson of the new book by Douglas “Dag” Rossman, The Northern Path: Norse Myths and Legends Retold…and What They Reveal. Reprinted with permission.
Like everyone drawn to the history and lore of Scandinavia and Northern Europe, I treasure the old stories and poems of the Gods, Goddesses, and Heroes. I remember years ago first discovering the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda and how reading them felt like coming home. Now, unexpectedly, I have re-experienced much of that original excitement. Through over-familiarity, I had forgotten how good the Eddaic stories are as stories. And how did I recapture old feelings of once new discoveries? I read the new book by Douglas “Dag” Rossman, The Northern Path: Norse Myths and Legends Retold…and What They Reveal.
Perhaps you have heard Dag retelling the myths and legends of the Northlands on one of his classic recordings, such as Hammer and Mistletoe or Ice and Fire. Maybe you’ve even been lucky enough, as I was a few years ago, to attend one of his storytelling performances. But for those of you unfamiliar with Dag and his work, here’s something from the back cover of The Northern Path: “For the past 25 years, he’s not only studied Norse mythology but also told these tales to live audiences, as the Norse skalds told them centuries ago, and interacted with audiences about their meaning and relevance for today…. He has made the myths, the runes, and their wisdom part of his own personal journey.”
Now, in The Northern Path Dag has preserved in writing his storyteller versions of our favorite tales. That alone would make the book worth reading. As a writer myself, I admire the way in which his prose breathes life into the characters. For example, In his retelling of how Thor got his Hammer back, Thor’s reluctance to dress as Freya has the appropriate comic touch when the bold and brawny Thunder God complains, “The guys will never let me live it down!” Others of the stories, however, are of course not funny at all. Dag retells the cosmic tragedy of Balder’s death in a way that produced for me appropriately strong emotions.
But wait, there’s more! The second part of the book is titled “The Northern Path to Wisdom and Balance.” And the afterward, “Echoes of Odin–Mythic Survival and Revival,” adds yet another reason why I appreciated this book so much. Therefore, yes, if you haven’t figured it out by now, I heartily recommend Dag’s new book to anyone young or old who has an interest in the Eddaic stories and Northern Lore. Whether discovering these stories and the Northern worldview for the first time or revisiting the tales and concepts of the Northern Path, in my opinion a better book than this one would be impossible to find. Read it yourself. Read it to your children. Give a copy to your local library. And have yourself some important, thoughtful fun!
“There’s a strong sense of the story-teller’s rhythm in Rossman’s verson of these tales — they beg to be read aloud at the fireside — which is exactly right for the Norse myths. Rossman gives a brief description of the Eddas and of the scene of the old Viking homestead and hall — the skald at the hearth, earning his living as a storyteller. The tales follow, and then afterward there is a wealth of wonderful extras: a discussion of myth, the place of myth, sources of the myths — runestones, dragons, the Light Elves. He gives a table of the Elder Futhark, with runic meanings and commentary.At the end is an excellent bibliography. This book is ideal for a newcomer to the Norse material, for kids who are curious, and for the person who, like me, is somewhat familiar with the tales — enough to particularly enjoy Rossman’s take on them.” –Sherwood Smith, Reading Riffs, September 2006.
The Northern Path: Norse Myths and Legends Retold…And What They Reveal is a trade paperback, 6″x9″, ISBN 0964911396, 252 pages.