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Best Books of Norse Mythology

Updated on January 14, 2015

Full Blooded Adventures with the Viking Gods

The Norse myths are peopled with all sorts of fantastic beings - gods and giants, elves, trolls, dwarves and dragons!

Like all mythology, if we pay close attention to what the stories are saying, we learn a great deal about what our ancestors thought was important in life.

Their myths tell us about their perception of the spiritual universe. The world as they saw it.

Let's look at the best books on the mythology of the North, the legends of the Nordic world and the Sagas of ordinary people who understood the great Northern Gods.

Yggdrasil, the World Tree
Yggdrasil, the World Tree

Asgard versus Mt Olympus

If you were brought up, as I was, chiefly on the stories of the Ancient Greeks, then the tales from the frozen North are like something from another world.

Indeed, they are from another world! A world without the luxuries of the Mediterranean. The Nordic Gods had no time for dalliance or for idle games with mortals, to them, courage and loyalty were more important than dabbling in petty squabbles or holding beauty contests.

The mythology is grim, like the breath from the glacier, wreathed in mists and fogs of long, sunless winters, but there are gleams of grandeur and quick, bright sparks of humour.

Gods and Myths of Northern Europe

If you're interested in the Northern way, there are a couple of books that you just have to have. This is one of them.

Gods and Myths of Northern Europe

I've had this book for a long time and I recommend it as the most comprehensive and clear account of the Northern Mythology.

My review on Amazon from 2003 says "Can't be beaten"

This classic work is still on my bookshelf, well-thumbed and well-loved after 45 years of being part of my life. I can't recommend this highly enough!

So, it's now been there for 39 years. About time I got myself a new copy.

Don't forget Beowulf

I've read a few translations since first meeting Beowulf and my favourite is from Seamus Heaney, his version of Beowulf is an absolute read-aloud delight.

There was Shiels Sheafson, scourge of many tribes,
a wrecker of mead benches, rampaging among foes.
This terror of the hall troops had come far

If you ever feel the Lure of the North you will know what I mean - and this translation is for you

Gerard Butler as Beowulf
Gerard Butler as Beowulf

More about Beowulf

It was meeting Beowulf in school that opened my eyes (and ears) to the epic poetry of the past. For you need your ears too.

Beowulf, Ancient Hero
In the face of danger and adversity they display impressive courage for the greater good of all. They are Heroes. We have always had heroes and Beowulf, great monster-slayer is one of our earliest Heroes.

Beowulf and Grendel the Movie
Beowulf and Grendel takes you into a world of fable and myth, a world where men, larger than life, stride along the border of light and dark, beset by evil dreams

More on Loki

A refreshing look at the Northern Gods through the eyes of Loki the Trickster and how it all started when he was tricked himself.

Highly enjoyable

More on Loki

Loki the Trickster from Scandinavian Stories
In the old Scandinavian Mythology you will come across Loki, the Trickster, a puzzling and complex character. You either love him or hate him, it's hard to ...

The Sagas

I love the Sagas!

These stories are about ancient Scandinavian and Germanic history, about early Viking voyages and the battles that took place during the voyages, about migration to Iceland and of feuds between Icelandic families. They tell of the peoples' relationship to their gods.

The texts are epic tales in prose, sometimes with stanzas or whole poems in alliterative verse embedded in the text, of heroic deeds of days long gone.

These tales can be rough as guts, they tell us of those times when a harsh climate produced harsh men. And plenty of harsh women too.

The Sagas are part of the heritage of European culture, on the same scale as Homer and Shakespeare

Hrolf's Saga

The stirring saga of Hrolf, king of Denmark, his lineage, and of his companions.

Hrolf, with his treacherous family and famous champions, comes to magnificent life in an earthy, no-holds-barred gutsy account.

Hrolf, a warrior chieftain in the sixth century, was widely remembered in the medieval North as one of the most magnificent kings of "ancient times," The Icelanders' knowledge of the Scandinavian past was so broad that in medieval times they were acknowledged throughout the North to be master storytellers and the keepers of ancient poetic lore.

Sigurd the Dragon Slayer

Based on Viking Age poems and composed in thirteenth-century Iceland, The Saga of the Volsungs combines mythology, legend, and sheer human drama.

It tells of the heroic deeds of Sigurd the dragon slayer, who acquires runic knowledge from one of Odin's Valkyries.

This 13th century Icelandic saga, rediscovered in 19th century Europe, was a prime source for Wagner's Ring cycle.

Elements are also found in Tolkien.

Classic of Icelandic Literature

Hrafnkel's Saga and Other Icelandic Stories (Penguin Classics)
Hrafnkel's Saga and Other Icelandic Stories (Penguin Classics)

To an Icelander of the classic age, all that matters is personal strength, courage, cunning and stamina. Just like Hrafnkel


Four Northern Gods

For Younger Readers - It's never too early to start

D'Aulaires' Book of Trolls (New York Review Children's Collection)
D'Aulaires' Book of Trolls (New York Review Children's Collection)

Nasty grubby little trolls, the ones who mostly live under bridges and can be easily defeated


The Future is Bleak

The future is bleak. The gods are destined to be defeated as the Forces of Chaos ultimately outnumber and overcome the Guardians of Order.

Heimdall, the watchman of the gods, will summon the heavenly host with a blast on his horn as he sees Loki and his monstrous children burst their bonds and the dead sailing from Niflheim to attack the living. The final battle, Ragnarok, will begin.

Odin will be swallowed by Fenrir. Thor will kill Jörmungandr, but will drown in the venom. Loki will be the last to die, after being wounded by Heimdall.

But, although the gods were destined to be defeated and killed, Baldur and Hoder, along with the new world, will be born again.

Stories from a thousand years ago

A fascinating collection of over 400 Scandinavian folktales and stories.

I'm sure that I had this book as a child but, when searching for a copy, I came up with this published in 1991. Maybe it's a reprint? In any case, the stories are the same.

I loved these tales then and my grandchildren are thrilled with them now.

Ancient Runes

No treatment of ancient Nordic spirituality would be complete without at least a mention of the runes, letters carved on wood, bone, stone or metal that not only served as part of a functional alphabet, but also symbolised key mythical-psychological concepts in the Nordic world view.

A Guide to the Runes

Did you first come across Runes in Tolkien? I think I must have done so, on first reading LOTR many years ago (too many to confess) I know that I was captured by the Lure of the North.

If you're into Runes, or just want to learn about them, this book is a useful reference of current popular rune usage.

A fascinating look at what was in the past and what's being used today.

© 2008 Susanna Duffy

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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I grew up studying the Romans and Greeks. Never really got into Norse mythology. I am enjoying watching The Vikings though, so I'll have to add some of these to my reading list. Thanks for the recommendations.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Great books on the Scandinavian way of life here

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Thrilling stories

    • mariacarbonara profile image


      5 years ago

      I find Norse mythology to be some of the most interesting there is. For us now its just stories but for them it was more like religion.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I've been getting my grandchildren into tales from the Norsemen recently

    • SusannaDuffy profile imageAUTHOR

      Susanna Duffy 

      5 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      @BrickExpert: I mention five books for children here but I'll certainly look for some more. I test them on my grandchildren first

    • BrickExpert profile image


      5 years ago

      Good list. Have you seen the different books available for children that introduce Norse Mythology?

    • Linda BookLady profile image

      Linda Jo Martin 

      5 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      Fascinating to know you've been reading these books. I don't know much about Norse heroes but I have seen and used runes as my friend here has a set. They seem to be fairly accurate and insightful.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Fabulous. Just when my TBR pile was getting under 12 inches! Thanks. I love all mythologies.

    • ManbeardTheHuge profile image


      6 years ago

      Excellent reading list.

    • CnickTuigsinn profile image


      6 years ago

      @SusannaDuffy: You're very welcome. I hope you like it as much as I did!

    • CnickTuigsinn profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice lens! I love Norse Myth almost as much as Celtic Myth. May I suggest a book? It's called "The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Women" by Nancy Marie Brown and it's about Gudrid of the sagas. I enjoyed it very much!

    • Elle-Dee-Esse profile image

      Lynne Schroeder 

      6 years ago from Blue Mountains Australia

      I love a bit of Norse mythology. Of course, Thor is making it all very popular right now!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I love Gods and Myths of Northern Europe book! Great lens, fantastic topic!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Okay, now I have to update my Goodreads list!

    • samsipet profile image


      6 years ago

      There seems to be so many great books here that I plan to read SOON. Thanks for bringing them out for us!

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 

      6 years ago

      I pinned this lens onto my Book board so that I can come back to read these books during the winter. Or perhaps on vacation by the beach.

    • caffimages profile image


      6 years ago

      Some interesting books here. Beowulf is a wonderful epic, isn't it?

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great list! Have you read the Eddas? I don't think I saw them. They have some great tales in them, too :)

    • Elric22 profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks for the comprehensive list!

    • LouisaDembul profile image


      6 years ago

      Great choice of books. I find mythology so interesting, it tells a lot about people's minds.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I have to admit that I haven't read many of these books, but some of the ones that you have suggested sound pretty interesting

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I've read "The Saga of Grettir the Strong", which was fun. Very good list of books and lovely content.

    • jtmcwill profile image


      6 years ago

      Very good list on what is available for further reading. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      We know of these heroes, that Norse people have been source of inspiration and courage.

    • CruiseReady profile image


      7 years ago from East Central Florida

      Well, we all experienced Beowulf as require reading in English class, didn't we? But it sure might be run to revisit it thesde many years later. The side by side version sounds intrigueing!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      We loved visiting Viking villages when we went to the Scandinavia. Want to explore more their myths and this lens is a great start for me.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I've always enjoyed myths about Loki and other trickster gods. I also found the ragnarok myths fascinating too.

    • Rankography profile image


      7 years ago

      cool lens, this stuff fascinates me.

    • JeremyCrow profile image


      7 years ago

      Really enjoyed this lens! Will definitely be revisiting this page more than once. SquidLiked it and gave it a +1 on Google+

    • CarynJSwift56889 profile image


      7 years ago

      I like legend and mythology, they are full of mysterious and courage spirit~

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      awesome i love books about mythology and you are a creative person to write a lens about it!!!:D

    • Puckwudgie profile image


      7 years ago

      Fantastic lens! Of course, my Wegies and I have a soft spot for Norse mythology - gotta love a mythology that puts one of its most masculine gods in a bridal gown! Lol

    • cinefile profile image


      7 years ago

      Love. This. Lens.

    • JohanVanGeyt profile image


      7 years ago from Belgium

      Very nice survey of the Norse mythology. Thank You

    • LadyJasmine LM profile image

      LadyJasmine LM 

      7 years ago

      This page has some great resource information. Very nicely put together! :-)

    • Bookfighters profile image


      8 years ago

      What about the Poetic Edda? That one's pretty much indispensable when it comes to Norse Mythology. Also, Saga of the Volsungs. I've never heard of a few of these, so I'll definitely have to check them out!

    • Draconius LM profile image

      Draconius LM 

      8 years ago

      I have always been fascinated by mythology and ancient times great lens thanks for sharing it with us

    • Yume Tenshi profile image

      Yume Tenshi 

      8 years ago

      Norse Mythology has always been with us! A recent study found that The Lord of the Rings author, J.R Tolkien, used Norse Mythology as the foundations for his books. He borrowed countless names, events and ideas from mythology to populate his "world'. :) I wonder what the lingering fascination with Norse mythology is? 'till to today Vikings inspire fear and awe into the hearts of most mortals. :D A great, well written lens. Thank you for sharing it with us!


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