Norse Mythology retelling for fans of Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Calvin & Hobbes
Ever woken up being a God, but not knowing how to God properly? Poor Odin must restrain his brothers, who create offensive weapons such as mosquitoes and celery; placate his future-telling wife, Frigg, who demands sweatpants with pockets; listen to Loki’s Helpful Questions; hang himself from Yggdrasil for nine days with a spear through his side (as you do); teach everyone about nutritional values of kale (but NOT celery); meet a Wise Dom, Sir Daddy Mímir, in order to outwit those who outwit him; and, most importantly, prove he is The All-Father, while his brothers are, at best, Those-Uncles-We-Don’t-Talk-About.
This nearly (except in Vanaheim) universally acclaimed retelling of the Gods’ first millennium answers way too many questions, including ones on Freyr’s entendre, horse designing… and why Odin drinks.
I read a digital arc of Why Odin Drinks on behalf of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team #RBRT. Thank you to the author, Bjørn Larssen for the opportunity to read and review this book before it is published.
Why Odin Drinks is a collection of four comedic fantasy retellings of the Norse myths. The stories are peppered with familiar names from the Norse myths and stories which have been told many times in Norse fantasy, but never before with such snarky and irreverent humour. Larssen’s take on the myths is truly original and well worth reading.
In the first story, Creation, which was previously published as a standalone, we see Odin and his lesser known brothers Vili and Ve on a creation spree with wide eyed abandon.
Odin philosophizes about what makes a thing alive and whether it is OK to eat such things. Vili continues making pretty things and Ve makes things that cause pain and destruction.
When humans are added to the mix the author includes some social commentary.
Chaos ensues until a tragedy occurs and gives the gods pause. Then Odin turns introspective while considering that actions have consequences – even those of the gods…
Creation’s tongue in cheek humour is refreshing and makes for many laugh out loud moments.
The second story is Loki Runes Everything, in which Odin is continuing to haphazardly create things without any kind of order or planning – until he comes to the conclusion that he needs both a plan and someone to organise him – he needs a wife! I’m sure many people will be able to relate to this feeling. And wouldn’t it be perfect if his wife could see the future and help decide which order to create things in? Enter Frigg. Now everything will be perfect, right? It isn’t long before the reality of living with said wife and trying to satisfy her every whim kicks in.
Frigg sees everything in the future all at once which is highly overwhelming – particularly since she doesn’t have any coffee, pillows, Manolos or concealer yet!! What has Odin been playing at?!
In this story Larssen includes the myth where Odin hangs from the World Tree, Yggdrasil with a spear in his side in order to procure the power of runes, Loki having trussed him up and stuck the spear in him as per Odin’s request. Up to this point, his main advisor has been Madam A (Angrboda from the myths), whose propensity for bondage has given him ideas suggesting being hanged from a tree might be enjoyable at some level.
When Odin meets the three Norns, they have an interesting lesson in verb tenses for Odin, which must have been extremely difficult to write and/or edit, with each sister speaking in their own tense the whole time, with Odin getting more and more confused:
“So I am sitting here with time?” Odin asked, paying less attention to Skuld’s words than he will think he should. Had. Would have will.
Story 3 is Fashionteller and features Frigg as a future-telling fashion victim goddess. I enjoyed Frigg’s description of her visions as “future burps” and her unhealthy obsession with a future tv show called Blabbing with Bjarnisdóttirs. There are so many things she has seen and wants to own now, but her voracious appetite will not be slaked if she cannot describe the things properly to Odin, their creator.
When Freya and Freyr show up from Vanaheim, Freya’s condescension towards frumpy Frigg reminded me of Alexis Rose from Schitt’s Creek.
Frigg’s constant disappearing into visions of the future are annoying Skuld since the things Frigg sees will now have to happen and that complicates the Norns’ tapestry of Time.
I really enjoyed Frigg’s characterisation. No wonder she is cranky when she can’t yet have all of the lovely future things she sees and is constantly being mansplained to by people who don’t know anywhere near as much as she does and can’t take their eyes off her chest.
Larssen has an engaging way of addressing the reader without actually doing so directly:
The list kept expanding anyway in a slightly deluded way, not unlike what would be called TBR piles in the future. Unfortunately, similar to all owners of TBR piles, Frigg didn’t know which of her expectations were unrealistic.
The final story is The Well of Wise-Dom which has a number of insightful and somewhat prophetic comments to make about war. Sir Daddy Mímir is the leather-clad Wise-Dom who tries to stop Odin from seeking all knowledge by drinking from his well. But Odin being Odin is stubborn and determined to do whatever he wants. He gains insight into how to win wars – by having the best, strongest and hardest warriors:
“The only way to stop a great army is to have an even greater army.”
“…What I’m saying is that there is no such thing as inevitable when you have control.”
Bjørn Larssen is an exceptionally talented comedic writer. His timing is perfect and the hilarity flows so well that you can read each of these novellas in one sitting. However there is always an intelligent social commentary to be found not too far beneath the surface satire of his stories. If you are a fan of absurd humour with a point of view, you will love this book as much as I did!
About the Author
Bjørn Larssen is a Norse heathen made in Poland, but mostly located in a Dutch suburb, except for his heart which he lost in Iceland. Born in 1977, he self-published his first graphic novel at the age of seven in a limited edition of one, following this achievement several decades later with his first book containing multiple sentences and winning awards he didn’t design himself. His writing is described as ‘dark’ and ‘literary’, but he remains incapable of taking anything seriously for more than 60 seconds.
Bjørn has a degree in mathematics and has worked as a graphic designer, a model, a bartender, and a blacksmith (not all at the same time). His hobbies include sitting by open fires, dressing like an extra from Vikings, installing operating systems, and dreaming about living in a log cabin in the north of Iceland. He owns one (1) husband and is owned by one (1) neighbourhood cat.