Title: Odd and the Frost Giants
Author: Neil Gaiman
Illustrator: Brett Helquist
Audience: Ages 8-12 years (Really, it is good for all ages!)
Summary: Odd is a young boy in a Norse village. His name means Tip of a blade and it was lucky, but nothing about Odd seemed lucky. His father had been drowned on a Viking raid (he was, as most were, a part time Viking and a full time woodworker), he shattered his leg soon after trying to bring down a tree by himself, and his mother (whom had been taken by his father on one such raid) had remarried another in the village who already had a family and had no time for a crippled stepson. On top of all this, Odd is a bit, well, odd. Even though all the bad things have happened to him, he is still cheerful and smiles all the time, which drives the others in the village crazy.
This winter has been around for longer than normal and the villagers are getting cranky with one another. After putting up with this for a while, Odd decides to head out on his own and sets out for his father’s hut where he stayed when out collecting wood. While there he encounters a fox, eagle and bear who turn out to be the gods Loki, Odin and Thor. They have been turned to animals and cast out of Asgard by the Frost Giants who have taken over there. Soon Odd is on his way with this group to try to drive the Giants out and bring about spring. Along the way Odd experiences some changes and proves that he is quite right to bear the name that means Tip of a blade.
Literary: This book is clearly fantasy along the lines of traditional fantasy. One might even be tempted to call it a fable or fairy tale. The elements are there to be told around a campfire. The characters are portrayed as the gods of Norse mythology. The villagers and Odd are portrayed as real people with real hopes, dreams, expectations and, of course, faults. Odd is portrayed as one who is willing to face what comes and to face it with a smile on his face. The book is told from an omnipotent narrator style with an easygoing and pleasant tale to tell. It is very approachable and fun.
Race/Gender/Culture/Economics/Ability: The culture makes a difference here. The villagers are portrayed as regular people. They are not the fierce, bloodthirsty marauders that Vikings have often been portrayed. In fact, they are rather boring in the village life. Ability is shown here as doing what you can with what you have. Odd has disadvantages with his leg and size, but this does not stop him from journeying with the gods to rescue Asgard. He uses what is available to do what needs to be done and in the end prevails even when it is clear that those around him think he is foolish for doing so.
Theological conversation starters: This book draws connections in several ways. There is the willingness to help when it would be easy to say no or to ignore the issue. There is the helping those who as Hebrews says might be angels in disguise, though here it is gods of Asgard. The helping to rescue Asgard with no request or expectation of reward could be used in a lesson on Jesus’ teaching on prayer. Finally, Odd is transformed from what he had been to something better: though he still retains a limp, he is no longer the small boy he had been. Plus, his cheerfulness, his ability to see the good even when things are bad, can be used to teach us to rely on God.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Like Odd, have you ever just wanted to leave your home because you believed you could do better elsewhere? Tell about one of those times.
- Do you believe that God would ask for our help sometimes? Can you name some stories in the Bible where God does ask humans for help?
- When the gods are transformed back to their true forms, Odd is also transformed physically, but is otherwise still himself. When God transforms, or changes, us, do we transform on the inside or outside?
- How does Odd defeat the Frost Giants? Do you believe that our foes can be defeated by not fighting but talking to them?
- Loki, Oden and Thor do not immediately reveal themselves to Odd. Can you tell of any times in the Bible that God did the same?
Book Review: Odd and the Frost Giants by Travis Milam is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
This review is written by Union Presbyterian Seminary student Travis Milam
Odd and the Frost Giants by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.