Illustrated by Chris Riddell
“Nobody knew what Odd was feeling on the inside. Nobody knew what he thought. And in a village on the banks of a fjord, where everybody knew everybody’s business, that was infuriating.”
When Odd’s father dies while off raiding with the other Vikings, his mother eventually remarries. Feeling unwelcome in their new family, Odd decides to go live in his father’s old woodcutting lodge in the woods, even though it has been an unusually long and cold winter. It is in the woods that he meets a bear, a fox, and an eagle, but these are no ordinary animals. In fact, they claim to be the gods Thor, Loki, and Odin, banished from Asgard by a frost giant. So Odd sets out to help the gods reclaim Asgard, and bring spring back to the human realm of Midgard.
Originally published in 2008 for World Book Day in the UK, this is a newly illustrated edition of Neil Gaiman’s story. This new version imitates the style and design of Chris Riddell and Gaiman’s 2014 collaboration The Sleeper and the Spindle, though Odd and the Frost Giants is a little less opulent. It lacks the semi-translucent slip cover, and the silver highlights used here provide a less striking contrast than the gold used in The Sleeper and the Spindle. However, the silver does give an appropriately cool feel to this wintery tale. Riddell’s highly detailed line art remains consistently excellent.
It might stretch credulity that a human boy is called on to solve a problem that has stumped three Norse gods. But Gaimain has an interesting take on the gods; as immortals their natures are fixed, their personalities immutable. The frost giants have exploited those weaknesses to seize Asgard. As a mortal, Odd is not just clever—Loki, obviously, is plenty clever—but he is also able to learn, change, and adapt, enabling him to tackle a problem that has stumped the immortals. He makes for an endearing protagonist, both resourceful and determined.
Early in the story, Odd injures his leg trying to cut wood after his father dies. He ends up with a limp and uses a crutch, but still strives to maintain his independence, especially since his new family can be cruel, calling him a cripple and an idiot. A common trope in fantasy fiction featuring characters with disabilities is for them to be magically cured as result of their heroic deeds. A partial version of that takes place here, when Odd is rewarded by the goddess Freya. She heals his leg as best she can, taking away his pain, though he still ends the story with a limp, a cane, and one leg that will never be as strong as the other. Feelings about whether this is good disability representation could go either way.
The story here remains unchanged from the original, making this a beautiful new edition of a fun children’s adventure into Norse myth. And it will no doubt help whet the appetite of fans who are excited for Gaiman’s Norse Mythology collection, due out in February 2017.
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