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The "Old Gods" and Their Allies
Shadow Moon/ Baldur
- Portrayed by: Ricky Whittle
- Affectionate Nickname: Laura's nickname for him is "Puppy".
- Ambiguously Brown: It's not entirely clear what race he is, although his mother is implied to have been black by the fact that she had sickle-cell anemia.
- When asked jokingly by a fan, Gaiman has agreed that Dwayne Johnson/The Rock, who has black and Samoan heritage, would be fitting to play him, stating they are both "underestimated".
- Audience Surrogate: Much like the readership, he's unfamiliar with the bizarre world of gods the story is set in.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Shadow's a nice guy, but he's also a very large man who knows how to handle himself. Even outside of his physical prowess, Shadow dismantles Wednesday and Loki's plans with a single awesome speech.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Look at his nickname and compare it to his actual identity as a Light Is Good deity.
- Divine Parentage: The son of Odin by a mortal woman.
- Genius Bruiser: Very well-read for a physical trainer, getting absorbed in books on Greek history and coin tricks while in prison.
- Gentle Giant: He's noted to be a very large man, but is not inclined towards violence.
- Given Name Reveal: In Monarch of the Glen, it's confirmed that the name on his birth certificate is Balder Moon.
- The Hero: The book's main protagonist and the one who topples the plans of the Big Bad. He's also a Hero in another sense, being the half-mortal son of a god.
- Kindhearted Cat Lover: And the cat goddess loves him too.
- Meaningful Name: He's named Shadow, which reflects how much he's a counterpart to Baldur, the Norse God of goodness and light.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: His real name is never mentioned by the third-person narrator. It's finally revealed to the reader in '"The Monarch of the Glen''.
- Smarter Than You Look: Everyone assumes he's just a big dumb guy until he starts talking.
- The Stoic: Throughout the book, Shadow takes most of the crazy shit he sees with aplomb.
- Tomato in the Mirror: Turns out he's actually Baldur.
- Unfazed Everyman: Subverted. He takes it rather calmly that there are tons of deities all all around him. But in a few private moments, he shows that he's almost going out of his mind with all the weirdness, and the drama of trying to get fiercely individualistic gods to work together. Makes sense since he is one himself, so he isn't a pure example of the trope.
- The Watson: Given he's a regular mortal, characters often explain things to him (and subsequently the audience).
- Portrayed by: Ian Mcshane
- Arrow Catch: His recitation of his charms says that he can catch arrows and put out fires with a look, although his diminishing powers may prevent that.
- Big Bad: In a sense, as the conflict is driven entirely by him, and he's a self admitted con man and all around Jerkass. Most of the Old Gods were more or less content with dying in obscurity, until he riled them back up knowing full well many would die in the war he was starting to regain their former glory. In his view, it was a worthy risk. Then it turns out the whole war was a scam to get himself more power and he doesn't care about the other Old Gods at all.
- The Casanova: He charms the pants off of nearly every young woman he meets. Quite literally, as one of his 18 charms seduces women.
- Character Rerailment: Post-Eddas, Odin has been mostly portrayed as a Grandpa God. Here, he has the more chaotic and selfish personality of older mythology.
- Consummate Liar: calls himself the best liar Shadow will ever meet. He was right.
- The Chessmaster: Effortlessly plays both sides of the war against the other.
- Con Man: How he goes about these days. He's done every con in the book.
- Dirty Old Man: He's described as sleeping with girls who look barely legal.
- Evil Mentor: He's Shadow's mentor, and he's technically the Big Bad.
- Eyepatch of Power: Averted, as he uses a glass eye instead, although his more traditional form in Valhalla has an eyepatch. Iceland's Odin wears an eyepatch though to show his less modern styles.
- Grumpy Old Man: he's often grumpy or pretending to be cheerful and reveals himself to be deeply bitter about the fact that as a god who went out of style in a land that's bad for gods, he essentially has to live off scraps.
- I Have Many Names: The King of the Aes, the God of the Gallows.
- 'I have as many names as there are winds and as many titles are there are ways for men to die.'
- Iconic Outfit: Averted, as Mr Wednesday avoids Odin's traditional wide-brimmed hat, cloak and eyepatch. Iceland's Odin embraces them though, due to Iceland's greater continuity.
- Jerkass: Likes to use one of his runes to seduce girls, then use another one to make them incapable of ever getting over him, just for shits and giggles.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: To Shadow.
- Mismatched Eyes: In a very subdued way. His glass eye moves and has a similar color as his organic eye, but doesn't reflect light in the same way.
- Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist: All his pretense of returning the Old Gods to their former glory was a con to empower himself.
- Pet the Dog: Not often, but he does occasionally get more sympathetic moments, such as when he seems to sincerely regret that he can't truly bring Laura back to life and that she had to die in the first place. He also tells Shadow, his son, that he's proud of him.
- Running Both Sides: Some accuse him of this, pointing out it is unlike Wednesday to go into such a clealy-stacked-against-him conflict. Then Mr World confirms it
- Self-Proclaimed Liar: He admits he's a Consummate Liar, and most distrust him for it. Evidently not enough, though.
- The Social Expert: It goes along with his con man tendencies.
- Technically a Smile: Shadow notes early on that his smile has a sinister motive just behind it, more bearing teeth than an actual display of emotion.
- Thanatos Gambit: Dying was the motivation all the other Old Gods needed to band together against the new. He didn't mind because, once the battle was dedicated to him, he would get more power than he ever had before.
- Trickster: Gaiman emphasises Odin's cunning, a strong feature in his traditional tales, more than other adaptions. Wednesday makes ends meet as a con man.
- War God: Less pronounced in this depiction, but a war god all the same. It's also a vital part of the plot, as Wednesday tries to empower himself with the gods' war.
- Portrayed by: Orlando Jones
- Animal Motif: Spiders, natch.
- Cool Old Guy: Unlike veteran conman Wednesday and bitter loner Czernobog, Nancy's just fine with passing the days doing his own thing.
- Dirty Old Man: He talks about his love of "women with big high titties" in his first appearance.
- Disappeared Dad: Inverted, he has two sons and an ex-wife that we don't learn about in American Gods. (One of his sons get an offhand mention towards the end, when Shadow stays at his Florida home). His sons get their own book, though.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Anansi is what modern culture might understand to be a god of mischief, and this shows up in that, outside of survival, his chief concern is women or having a laugh, particularly at someone else's expense. While this is hardly a positive trait, he's still fundamentally a good individual.
- Nice Hat: A lime-green fedora.
- Trickster: Less pronounced than Wednesday, since he's less visible throughout the story, but this is Anansi in a nutshell.
- Portrayed by: Demore Barnes
- Don't Fear the Reaper: Like all Ancient Egyptian gods connected to death, he's a nice guy.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: quite clearly loves words, something that goes with his mythical connections as a scribe, and telling the stories of people - though how true they are is in doubt, with Mr. Ibis suggesting that he does it for the love of the story.
- The Smart Guy: The most intellectual of the gods.
- Portrayed by: Chris Obi
- Don't Fear the Reaper: Like Mr. Ibis, he's not such a bad guy.
- I'm a Humanitarian: While conducting autopsies, he has a habit of eating some of the corpse's heart. Respectfully.
- A shout out of sorts to the mythology of Anubis who would weigh the deceased's heart against a feather to judge where they would spend the afterlife.
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: Into a jackal, naturally.
- Animal Eye Spy: She sees through the eyes of cats, and uses it to keep tabs on Shadow.
- Cat Girl: The original, practically.
- Intimate Healing: She provides some for Shadow in a dream. It heals him of his cuts and bruises, but leaves him with some fresh claw marks on his back.
- Supernatural Gold Eyes: As befitting a cat goddess.
- Surveillance as the Plot Demands: Keeps an eye on Shadow through the eyes of all cats.
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: Into a cat, of course, and spends most of her time in that form.
- Portrayed by: Peter Stormare
- Angsty Surviving Twin: Czernobog is very sad and somber over the apparent "death" of his twin "brother" Bielebog. In the end of the book, Shadow observes Czernobog is happy for the first time in the entire book when he reveals Bielebog is his alternate persona, and is soon returning.
- Ax-Crazy: Looking forward to beaning Shadow with a sledgehammer. And he does, but ultimately changes his mind about actually hurting him.
- Cain and Abel: He's known as the "evil" brother; his brother, Bielebog, is the "good" one.
- Dark Is Not Evil: A god of darkness, but that doesn't mean he's a bad guy.
- Drop the Hammer: His weapon of choice in mythology, and he used to have a day job slaughtering cattle with a sledgehammer.
- The Eeyore: Not as demonstrative as many examples, but he's a very gloomy guy.
- God of Evil: How he's seen by those who remember him.
- Jekyll & Hyde: He and Bielebog are the same person.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He's rough around the edges, but means well.
- Retired Monster: Czernobog occasionally references his heyday as a god. Those references tend to paint quite a dark picture, as he talks of things like massive human sacrifices and butchering enemies during armistice.
- Vegetarian Vampire: Gets his powers from sacrificial murders, but after his followers dried up, he worked at a slaughterhouse rather than becoming a Serial Killer.
The Zoryas (Zorya Utrennyaya, Zorya Vechernyaya and Zorya Polunochnaya)
- Portrayed by: Cloris Leachman (Vechernyaya), Erika Kaar (Polunochnaya), Martha Kelly (Utrennyaya)
- Canon Foreigner: Zorya Polunochnaya isn't actually from Slavic myth and was invented by Gaiman based on vague references to a third Zorya sister in some myths.
- Cool Old Lady: All three.
- Heavy Sleeper: Polunochnaya is only awake around midnight.
- The Mentor: Polunochnaya to Shadow.
- Portrayed by: Pablo Schreiber
- Blood Knight: So he says. While probably true, it was also a setup.
- Driven to Suicide: Ultimately drinks himself to death.
- Drunken Master: Is quite a good fighter even while blackout drunk.
- Fighting Irish: He's Irish and a Blood Knight.
- Leprechaun: Though you wouldn't know it looking at him because he's tall, doesn't speak with an accent, and doesn't drink Guinness.
- Portrayed by: Kristin Chenoweth
- Big Beautiful Woman: As befits a fertility goddess.
- Break the Cutie: Wednesday twists her arm into service by going into a diatribe about what people do and do not believe about her holiday. She very nearly cries.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Her holiday celebrates mornings, life and rebirth. She plays a vital part in Shadow's resurrection.
- Fertile Feet: Appears to have the ability to make things grow with her touch. She's a fertility goddess, after all.
- Kiss of Life: To Shadow.
- Ms. Fanservice: As befitting a fertility goddess.
- Nice Girl: Is kind to Shadow and to Horus alike, with her thoughts regarding the latter being mostly that he needs to be wrapped up and taken somewhere warm to babble his way back to sanity.
- Stepford Smiler: Is flirty, cheerful and apparently happy. However, Wednesday quickly penetrates her façade and as the Break the Cutie entry shows, she nearly breaks down in tears.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Thoth and Anubis mention him in Cairo. He pops back up in Kansas to convince Easter to save Shadow.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: He's a Bird Brain.
- Noble Bird of Prey: Averted. He's a hawk but he has none of the gravitas.
- Non Sequitur: "I can stare at the sun without blinking". This is after he's reminded he's naked.
- The Ophelia: A male version, but both Thoth and Anubis say he's lost his mind.
- Power of the Sun: Has this, though he forgot how to use it for a very long time.
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: From a hawk to a naked man with a hawk's head.
The man in the charcoal suit
The man in the charcoal suit
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: Shadow forgets everything about him - including his name - immediately after learning them.
- Man of Wealth and Taste: An impression of wealth is all Shadow can remember of him. He wears a suit and drinks expensive whiskey with Wednesday. He also appears to be a god of wealth or similar, able to sense the exchanges of money going on around him.
- The Nondescript: His only description is that he's dark-haired, clean-shaven, and his face is forgettable in every sense of the word.
- The Unreveal: We never actually find out who he is.
- Affably Evil: He's friendly to everyone, tells jokes all the time, and goes out of his way to help Shadow on multiple occasions, even saving Shadow's life when it would have been in his best interests not to. But at the same time, he literally murders children for a living, in order to sustain his powers as a god and to keep the town of Lakeside prosperous.
- Big Bad Friend: He's the villain of the Lakeside subplot.
- Cool Old Guy: How everyone in Lakeside views him, including Shadow.
- Hidden in Plain Sight: He makes no attempt to cover up his unusual longevity and is using his real name, banking on his own obscurity.
- Minnesota Nice: What he appears to be. Turns out he's not actually from America at all, and he's only nice in the Affably Evil sense.
- Nice Guy: Subverted when he turns out to be a Serial Killer.
- Powered by a Forsaken Child: He was created from a child sacrifice many centuries ago, and he sustains his powers in the modern day by sacrificing children to himself once a year.
- Really 700 Years Old: He's actually a god (and a kobold) from centuries ago.
- Serial Killer: He's been sacrificing a child to himself every year. Though the reason he's doing this is because he's an old god and he needs the sacrifices in order to sustain himself and keep Lakeside prosperous, he still counts as this trope since he's methodically killing one type of person.
- Suicide by Cop: When finally confronted with his crimes, he provokes the police chief into shooting him.
Samantha Black Crow
Samantha Black Crow
- Agent Mulder: Delivers an amazing and lengthy monologue to Shadow about all the things she believes in to get him to open up to her.
- Badass Normal: Faces Mr. Town and Mr. Road, and not only does she refuse to tell them anything about Shadow, she makes fun of their names. She also hitchhikes with Shadow, who's kind of scary before you get to know him.
- Braids, Beads and Buckskins: She doesn't dress like it, but she's proud of her Indian heritage.
- Bi the Way: With the exception of her interest in Shadow and a hinted past with a boy in Lakeside, all of Sam's mentioned relationships are with women.
- Girl Next Door: Well, technically, the girl next door's little sister.
- Little Miss Snarker: Well evidenced in her interaction with Mr. Town and Mr. Road. Calling Audrey a cunt is just icing.
- "Take That!" Kiss: She plants what she terms a "fuck off" kiss on Shadow in a bar, although it was to tell everyone else there to fuck off, not him.
- Tomboy: She's very independent and adventurous, she goes by "Sam", and Shadow, upon first seeing her through the car window while half-asleep, had to ask if she was a boy or a girl.
- Portrayed by: Emily Browning
- Action Girlfriend: Rather, Action Wife. For a dead woman, she's pretty capable of doing some damage to a group of trained government agents.
- Back from the Dead: Not in a nice way, though.
- After drinking the water of time and a highly unpleasant process of getting rid of all the formaldehyde, maggots etc. inside her, she's back to her living self, though Loki notes that this is temporary.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Even when she was alive, Laura was not as nice as she seemed. But she really does love Shadow, which keeps her on the sympathetic side of the trope.
- Came Back Wrong: She's not truly alive, she's left disconnected from the real world, and her body keeps decomposing.
- Dead All Along: Not that it's a revelation; the twist is that she comes back.
- Dead Person Conversation: Whenever she talks to Shadow, or anyone else.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: She kills Loki by stabbing him through her own chest.
- Lady Macbeth: Seems Shadow's involvement in the robbery that got him in prison was her idea.
- The Lost Lenore: Shadow misses her throughout the novel, and her resurrection does little to help that.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Deconstructed Character Archetype. Because of that personality, she cheated on Shadow with her best friend's husband while he was in the clink. She also puts on the MPDG act to charm Mr. Town before gruesomely killing him.
- More Deadly Than the Male: She is far more likely to kill you than her husband is.
- Our Zombies Are Different: This one is self-aware and in control of her actions, but steadily rotting away.
- Poisonous Friend: Very big on protecting Shadow and quite violent about it.
- Took a Level in Badass: According to her, dying did a lot to remove her inhibitions about killing people.
- Undeath Always Ends: She gets temporarily restored to life, then stabs herself through the chest, and finally Shadow takes back the coin that made her undead at her own request.
- Your Cheating Heart: A classic. Was sleeping with Shadow's best friend while he was in prison, although she maintains they were going to end the affair when Shadow was released.
The "New Gods" and Their Allies
The Technical Boy
The Technical Boy
- Portrayed by: Bruce Langley
- Anthropomorphic Personification: He's one of the Internet.
- Badass Longcoat: Subverted. He dresses like the characters in The Matrix but is a physically weak nerd.
- Character Death: Killed by Loki as a demonstration of his plan to sacrifice the new and old gods, thereby resurrecting Odin's ghost.
- Child Soldiers: Not "a soldier", but he looks about 15 and is in the middle of this brutal divine war, which adds a bit of tragedy to him - he may be an asshole, but deep down, he's just a kid.
- Disc-One Final Boss: Out of the New Gods he's the one with most presence and menace (despite being a pathetic nerd). Then Mr. World kills him to make way for the true Big Bad: Wednesday.
- G.I.F.T.: Since he is the Anthropomorphic Personification of the Internet, it's only natural he acts like this.
- The Heavy: He's the central antagonist (from the perspective of the Old Gods) throughout most of the book. However, he's just one of many Unwitting Pawns to both Mr. World and Wednesday.
- Heel–Face Door-Slam: He's suggesting to Mr. World that they just go home and abandon this useless war when Mr. World kills him in Odin's name.
- Heel Realization: After he murders Bilquis he realizes that his faction's motivations don't actually make any sense; unfortunately for him he brings this up to exactly the wrong person.
- Hidden Depths: It's subtle but over the course of the novel it becomes clear for all his bravado, Technical Boy doesn't really want to kill anyone. His murder of Bilquis in fact ends up traumatizing him.
- Jerkass: He's a rude, nasty little punk who likes to throw his weight around.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Technical Boy doesn't quite get there, but the weight of his actions slowly start to bear on him as the story goes by. Mr. World kills him just as he seems to fully realize what he's done.
- Nerd in Evil's Helmet: His efforts at being intimidating come across as rehearsed and poorly executed.
- Otaku: Beneath the attempts at a threatening demeanor, the Technical Boy is little more than a pathetic nerd.
- Peaceful in Death: Mr. World observes he smiles in bliss as he collapses dead. Though it should be noted, given how the worship of the Internet has only grown in the years after the novel, he's bound to come back.
- Super Loser: He may be a god, but nobody gives him much respect, and the narrative tends to refer to him as "the fat kid."
- These Hands Have Killed: It's implied that killing The Queen of Sheba damaged his consciousness. Shadow sees him crying and bashing his head against a wall at one point, and while he has no idea why, the readership knows the murder wasn't long ago. Being a personification of the internet in a dead zone at the time probably isn't helping.
- Wicked Cultured: He's surprisingly well-read, dropping both pop culture references (like singing Madonna) and more obscure ones (like alluding to the Omertá)
- Portrayed by: Gillian Anderson
- AcCENT Upon the Wrong SylLABle: She sprinkles heavy emphasis on particular words throughout her speech (though not when possessing a TV character), in the same fashion as a news anchor.
- Stepford Smiler: Her personality resembles that of a passive-aggressive newscaster. It's about as genuine as a three-dollar bill.
- Surveillance as the Plot Demands: Can take any character that appears on TV as her avatar. Shadow eventually stops watching TV because he feels (rightfully) that he's being watched.
- The Vamp: She tries to seduce Shadow onto the side of the New Gods various times throughout the story. It's so blatant and done so vulgarly that it mostly just annoys him."Hey, do you want to see Lucy's tits?"
- Alas, Poor Villain: The end of Mr. Town is somewhat tragic. We get to see a portion from his POV where he seems to have finally found peace and a woman to love for the rest of his life, and just as he's about to live happily ever after, said woman kills him.
- Avenging the Villain: Mr. Town is not happy about his buddies getting killed, but leaves Shadow alone because Mr. World says so.
- Flat-Earth Atheist: Mr. Town thinks all the gods are just mutants with mind control powers.
- The Men in Black: What they seem to be the archetype of.
- Mook Lieutenant: Mr Town seems to be the highest ranking member, answering directly to Mr World.
- Mooks: They work for Mr. World and the New Gods.
- Punch-Clock Villain: They're not much more than jerks in suits, doing the bidding of a villainous god.
- Those Two Bad Guys: Mr. Wood and Mr. Stone.
- Villainous Friendship: Mr. Town, Wood and Stone seemed to have been close friends, and thus why Mr. Town wants to desperately avenge them.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: By the end of the novel, Mr. Road is unaccounted for.
Mr. World / Low-Key Lyesmith / Loki Lie-Smith
- Chekhov's Gunman: Shadow first mentions him in passing. He shows up in person later.
- Distinguishing Mark: His scarred lip; it's a reference to a story in Norse Mythology where Loki's mouth was sewn shut and he had to tear it open.
- The Dragon: To Wednesday.
- Evil Redhead: The Dragon to Wednesday, and a redhead besides.
- Louis Cypher: Low-key Lyesmith. Loki Liesmith
- Meaningful Name: Low-key is no mere prison nickname.
- Running Both Sides: With Wednesday.
- Smug Snake: Very clever, but also very haughty.
- Two Aliases, One Character: Goes by Low-key and Mr. World.
- Villainous Breakdown: He completely unravels in tears and whimpering when Laura impales him with a spear.
- Walking Spoiler: Describing him as anything more than Shadow's former cellmate spoils a plot twist later in the book.