Norse mythology has been a well studied field for a very long time, and as such there are tons of books out there that tell both the great and the small stories of Norse mythology.
The best part about this is that you don’t need to spend any money to get these books.
This is because many of them have been written 70-80+ years ago, and since then their copyright has expired. This means they are in the public domain and are free for anyone to download and read.
The best place to find such books with expired copyright is on archive.org.
Most of the books in this article are completely free, and all have download links on archive.org so you don’t spend unnecessary money.
Finally, these books are up to date as well. Norse mythology has virtually staid the same for the past 100 years, since no new, major sources have been discovered.
Norse Mythology by Anders Rasmus Bjorn (FREE)
Interesting and well thought out, and presents Norse mythology in a logical manner, excerpting both the elder and younger eddas and providing fairly lucid commentary on both in order to create a frame of reference that the modern reader can relate to.
Through this method, Anderson provides more than a basic introduction, but somewhat less that a guided tour of the nordic pantheon.
Norse Tales by Thomas Edward (FREE)
A collection of Nordic tales drawn together from multiple sources. It includes stories not found in the main corpus of Norse mythology (Poetic Edda and Prose Edda).
This book has been published more than 100 years ago, so it’s copyright has expired and it is now free and in the public domain.
Asgard and the Norse Heroes by Katharine Boult (FREE)
A complete walkthrough of Norse gods and their tales, the saga of King Volsung, as well as the famous tales of Ragnar Lothbrok.
What makes this work stand out is it’s focus on storytelling, rather than a cold, academic overview of norse mythology.
Katharine Boult elegantly arranges and connects the stories in such a way that they feel like a longer narrative and an epic story.
Old Norse Stories by Sarah Powers Bradish (FREE)
Contains many folk tales, legends and myths not found even in the Poetic and Prose Edda’s.
Here are just some of the stories included:
- Thor and Skrymir
- The invention of poetry.
- Geirrod and Agnar.
- The Punishment of Loki.
- The Quarell of the Queens.
The Mythology of All Races, Volume 2: Eddic by John Arnott MacCulloch (FREE)
The Mythology of All Races is a massive collection of books, with each volume dedicated to a particular “race” (the series was written more than a hundred years ago).
The second volume concerns Eddic, or Norse, mythology. It stands out because it includes a vast amount of information outside the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda, even things such as how to worship and pray to Odin.
This book has in-depth overview and explanations of various creatures and mythological beings, many of which aren’t discussed as in-depth as in other books.
- The Alfar or Elves.
- The Fylgja
- The Norns.
- Swan Maidens.
- And more.
The Poetic Edda (FREE)
The Poetic Edda is the name given to a collection of Norse poems that explain and tell many of the most famous Norse myths.
If you want to get as close as possible to the source of Norse mythology, then the Poetic Edda, and as well as the Prose Edda, are the best possible starting points.
Being an old text, the Poetic Edda has numerous translations. Many of these translations are now free and in the public domain.
(Archive.org) Henry Adams Bellows Translation (includes extensive notes)
However, one of the more recent translations by Jackson Crawford has been very well received and is considered by many as the best and most readable English translation of the Poetic Edda. However, since this one is still within copyright you will have to pay for it.
The Prose Edda (FREE)
The Prose Edda is a compilation of Norse mythology, written around the year 1220, by Icelandic poet, politician and historian Snorri Sturluson.
This book, more so than the Poetic Edda, is the most complete and detailed original source of everything we know about Norse mythology.
While both the Prose and the Poetic Edda are original sources of Norse mythology, they are different from each other in a few ways.
The Norse myths were recorded in cryptic poetry. The Poetic Edda is a compilation of those poems directly, while the Prose Edda was (likely) Snorri Sturluson’s attempt at explaining them in plain language. He’s useful because he had access to some myths we don’t have, but he also makes a lot of mistakes and has heavy bias toward treating it like the Bible.
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
In “Norse Mythology”, Neil Gaiman retells the Norse stories about the forming of the world, the creation of Yggdrasil and the Nine Worlds, how Odin lost his eye, how the gods got their treasures, Loki’s children, Thor’s journey to the land of the giants, the death of Balder, Ragnarok, and more.
Gaiman previously adapted the Norse stories in some of his other works, like “American Gods” and “The Sandman” comics, but here he tells the stories in their own setting.
Like any storyteller, he’s updated the language a bit, except where older vernacular adds weight, and focuses on certain elements over others, but the major points of the stories hold true.
Gaiman’s update demonstrates why these stories remain relevant and continue to enthrall us. Fans of Thor, Odin, and Loki will find plenty to enjoy and younger readers wanting to know more about the characters they read about in comics or see in movies, much like Gaiman first learned of Thor from Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s stories, will learn to love the original tales from this retelling.
Based on his previous work, Gaiman appears to have been working toward this for awhile and he doesn’t disappoint.
Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard by Rick Riordan
Magnus Chase is a fiction book series set in a Norse mythological world.
It’s written by Rick Riordan, the same author behind the now famous “Percy Jackson & the Olympians” series.
You can tell Riordan is through in his mythology research and uses that knowledge to build stories that draw readers in and teach them a little mythology while entertaining them.
In the line of Percy Jackson series (Greek and Roman mythology) and the Kane’s series (Egyptian mythology), he has done the same with Norse mythology with a little spin to it.
His heroes seem to have a few common themes -personal tragedy (i.e. The death of a parent or some thing in that line), no knowledge of their true parentage, and a quest of some sort that awakens their potential strength. Also humour/sarcastic nature.
For pre-teens and children interested in mythology, this is a good read. Not everyone lives, but it’s not as violent as GoT nor as gory. It shows character development in both the hero and his friends and those around him.
The villains are not 2D, but have plenty of depth and sometimes make you wonder what their angle are. Even those who seem to be on their side makes you wonder about their true intentions.
Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Broadsky
Inuit culture and their gods meet the vikings and the Norse pantheon.
It starts as a very tight and intimate story about a young Inuit and their relationship with their family and with the spirits that guide their daily life, then introduces the Viking threat from the outside world, then throws their gods into the mix and by the end just goes absolutely maniacally insane.
The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson
Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword is a fantasy masterpiece. Combining Norse myth and legend, English and World myth, with historical fact and setting, this tells a legendary tale economically and with a fable-like tone.
Anderson tells of an epic battle between elves and trolls, with the Aesir and Frost giants looking on, and of a tragic hero caught on the chessboard in between. If you like a good fantasy and if you are interested in a blend of history and myth then you should love this book.