The End of the Gods

Book - 2011
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Ragnarok retells the finale of Norse mythology. A story of the destruction of life on this planet and the end of the gods themselves: what more relevant myth could any modern writer choose? Just as Wagner used this dramatic and catastrophic struggle for the climax of his Ring Cycle, so A.S. Byatt now reinvents it in all its intensity and glory.

As the bombs of the Blitz rain down on Britain, one young girl is evacuated to the countryside. She is struggling to make sense of her new wartime life. Then she is given a copy of Asgard and the Gods - a book of ancient Norse myths - and her inner and outer worlds are transformed.

How could this child know that fifty years on many of the birds and flowers she took for granted on her walks to school would become extinct? War, natural disaster, reckless gods and the recognition of impermanence in the world are just some of the threads that A.S. Byatt weaves into this most timely of books. Linguistically stunning and imaginatively abundant, this is a landmark work of fiction from one of the world's truly great writers.
Publisher: Toronto : Alfred A. Knopf Canada, c2011.
ISBN: 9780676978506
Characteristics: 177 p. :,ill. ;,22 cm.


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

forbesrachel Apr 05, 2013

A nameless child thinks on her fascination with Norse myths. With the World War as the backdrop to her life, Ragnarok becomes an appropriate metaphor. On the side she questions Christianity for its inability to explain why a kind god would allow such horrors to happen; from her perspective the brutal Norse gods make more sense in relation to the events of the world. Both the fantasy world and the real world are balanced throughout, with lists of things in their respective natural worlds to connect them. There are other more subtle metaphors at places. At one point she picks poppies, notes how quickly they die, but that there are always more. This is not for everyone, but is interesting to see how this myth played out in reality.

May 23, 2012

Dry but interesting retelling of Norse myth. The last chapter is a fascinating, succinct expanatory essay. I enjoyed "Possession" and "Angels and Insects" but haven't liked other Byatt fiction I've started. This isn't really fiction.

Feb 21, 2012

I have read Greek myths and Roman myths, and now scandinavian myths. They are all quite separate yet so similar. I am drawn to mythology and like to read myths of all ethnics.

This book was kinda hard to follow as there was so much total description and then near the end the story came together and it was understandable

melwyk Feb 13, 2012

I like A.S. Byatt's writing, and this book highlights her particular style in its retelling of the Norse myths. She frames the myth with the fictional yet autobiographical character of a young girl evacuated from London during WWII, who has just discovered a book of Norse myths. The uncertainty of wartime, the inability to see ahead and know whether the world would continue on or be totally destroyed in a man-made Ragnarok, makes this first reading experience particularly fraught with tension. This child reappears interspersed with the myths throughout this small book.

This isn't a book to read for plot or character as much as for the love of an author's style, for her precise language and the rhythms of her storytelling. It consists of a fairly straightforward retelling of the end of the world according to Norse myth. And I did have a vague familiarity with these stories, but this book draws them into fullness -- the darkness, the betrayals, the violence and bloodshed, all are very evident. Byatt does not try to draw direct parallels to her framing story or try to explain to us what these myths mean, she simply presents them. In fact, in her afterword, I came across a marvellous explanation of myth.

Byatt says:

This is how myths work. They are things, creatures, stories, inhabiting the mind. They cannot be explained and do not explain; they are neither creeds nor allegories.

Dec 11, 2011

The author has created an intricate, multi-layered story that re-tells and weaves together the ancient Norse myths which clearly first captured her imagination when she read and re-read them as a child. Overall, a bit difficult to synthesize in one reading, as the stories are of epic proportions, most of the names are unfamiliar and characters are shape-shifting. So, very glad that the author includes a chapter which briefly summarizes her ‘thoughts on myths’ – how they make things comprehensible to the human mind; how the gods have attributes, as opposed to personalities, that they often ‘puzzle & haunt the mind that reads them’; and their importance in her work . Byatt also reveals her purpose for reinventing this story in order to craft it into a metaphor for how humankind is speeding toward the disintegration of Earth – which neither the flawed gods (with their overwhelming passions and bloodthirstiness) nor the scientific-like detachment of the outsider Loki can save. Including this section certainly made me think about and appreciate the story more than I otherwise would have.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at Library

To Top