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Headscratchers: American Gods
  • Sort of a headscratcher and maybe a little bit Fridge Horror, but how would shipping work? Like, could enough of the fandom's feverent belief that two characters, or even actors, are in love actually make them in love?
  • Perhaps I just accidentally skimmed over something important, but why did the Buffalo-Headed Man and Whiskey Jack turn away from Shadow in one of his dreams towards the end of the book?
    • they were waiting for him because he was about to die. he didn't see them in a dream, he saw them right before passing out from hypothermia after Hinzlemann pulled him out of the lake.
  • Why didn't Thor regenerate after he shot himself back in the '30s? Of all that pantheon, Thor is the one with the most PR.
    • Maybe he regenerated as the version of Thor seen in media today, which the other Norse gods don't see as the same Thor.
      • The answer is even simpler than that: Even though Thor was the most well-known of the Norse Gods, he still didn't have any true worshippers, so he simply couldn't come back.
      • Oh, I wouldn't say that; there has been quite a revival of late. And as the last link mentions, effigies of Thor's hammer, Mjolnir, are one of the primary holy symbols of Germanic neopaganism!
      • It's pretty explicitly pointed out during Wednesday's encounter with the Pagan waitress that neopaganism isn't really the Old Ways, and more like re-skinned modern spiritualism. Modern pagans don't do the whole human sacrifice thing that feeds Odin in this story.
      • IIRC, we learn at the end of the book that Wednesday is really more like a shadow of Odin, and that the real Odin is still alive and well in Scandinavia, so maybe it was only the shadow-version of Thor that died from the suicide and the "real" one is still out there.
      • Eh, I think it would be more accurate to say that there are no "real" gods in American Gods. All of them are just reflections of human ideas. That's why it's, y'know "American Gods" instead of just Gods. The American Odin was killed, but the Scandinavian Odin is still alive.
    • He didn't want to.

  • Where are the Greek pantheon? They're not getting any animal sacrifice as was their wont, so they can't possibly be doing well like Jesus and Buddha, right?
    • There's talk that the Forgettable God is actually Hades, because his name is Greek for "unseen" (hence the forgettable part), and because he controlled all the wealth in the world, since he lived underground and all riches come from minerals (hence the "impression of wealth" Shadow gets from him). The woman he's looking for should therefore be Persephone. Of course, this is all just Wild Mass Guessing, and the "real" answer should be: Neil Gaiman wanted to feature the lesser-known gods.
      • Also, the Greek Gods probably never had worshippers on American soil. That religion was pretty much stamped out long before the Greeks made it to the Americas.
      • History is pretty fuzzy in the novels. Ancient Egyptians somehow came to America before European settlers so I wouldn't be too hasty to assume that the Greeks never brought their Gods over.
      • But Medusa is there.
      • Medusa has enjoyed something of a revival as a horror movie monster; I'm sure there are kids somewhere who believed in her just enough for her to hold on.
    • There's actually a moment in where Shadow and Wednesday go to Houston, and after the meeting, Wednesday storms into the car, and says "Fucking Albanians. Like anyone cares." This may or not be the Greek Gods, and Wednesday was just hanging a Lampshade on the ethnic weirdness of the Balkans.
    • Neil Gaiman stated in a recent interview that as long as he could find some excuse for a god's believers somehow making it to America sometime in history, he put it in the story. Since he couldn't find any historical, or even pseudosciencey, evidence that the Greeks ever made it as far as America, he didn't feel justified in including them. However, he's also stated that they'll probably show up in the sequel, since archaeologists have recently discovered ancient Roman coins somewhere where they really ought not to be, and that's good enough for him.
    • They DO make a cameo, though. When Shadow visits Margeurite Olsen, her son is watching Disney's Hercules.
  • Seriously? No one in a hundred people, in a major city, would know that Easter rituals were from pagan origins? Wouldn't a pagan at least know this?
    • The waitress was not a druidic pagan— probably not a pagan at all, just a fluffy bunny. Wicca good and woman power love the earth but nought between the ears (on the subject, that is, she seemed like a perfectly intelligent if slightly ignorant and/or extremely misguided young woman). Wednesday was just bluffing Easter, helped by the two misguided people (the bunny and the Christianite) shaking her faith in the stability of her belief. He knew he couldn't escape that bet with many if any of his digits, but expected Easter to join them or storm off without taking the bet. He's been a confidence man for hundreds of years, including scams with more risk than a few fingers; that's how he works. (Another thing: Paganism isn't a specific set of beliefs. The Ainu were pagans, but you wouldn't expect one of them to know Pluto from a pushbroom, and the ancient Greeks were pagans, but ask them who Freyja was and they'd have no idea what you were talking about.)
      • Depends what ancient greeks you're talking about. There were greek trading posts all the way to britain; I'm sure they came in contact with germanic peoples and at least one version of Freyja.
      • A better comparison would be asking the ancient Greeks if they knew who Xiuhtecuhtli was. I'm pretty sure none of them did.

  • Does anybody else really not like Laura? I mean, Shadow gives her nothing but love and affection, and how does she reward his devotion? She encourages him to break the law, cheats on him with his best friend, blames him for forcing her to cheat, and has the nerve to ask him to find a way to resurrect her. IMHO, Shadow would've been much better off with Sam or even Bast.
    • I quite agree, but I also think Laura was supposed to be come off as a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing. I mean, look at what happened to Mr. Town.
    • At one point Wednesday says he is sorry for Laura's death, probably because either he or Loki used her to manipulate Shadow. Shadow acts as a Spanner in the Works by giving Laura the coin.
    • I agree I didn't like the fact that she cheated on Shadow, especially since it was her who got him involved with crooks in the first place. But to be fair she appeared to really love him after she died, and did everything to help him that she could. I suppose I just didn't like how much of a pushover Shadow was about the whole thing.
    • Also remember that, as a reanimated dead person, her capacity for empathy is gone. Doesn't excuse what she did before she died, although that was implied to not entirely be under her control either as part of the setup to take everything Shadow wanted to go back to away from him.
    • She was indeed a majorly self centered bitch, who nevertheless loved Shadow, even though she admitted this was partly because Shadow adored her, and she liked being adored. Anyone else seeing the parallel between that state of affairs and the dying Gods? But anyways, she wasn't a great person, and she was aware of it, and used that to be the bad guy in support of Shadows cause, and redeemed herself a little along the way. After all, she might have said she wanted to be really alive again (and wouldn't you?) but in the end, she chooses to die, and thats obviously what's best for everyone. As for Sam, or Bast, well, even if you ignore the fact that Sam was a lesbian, Shadow really needed to learn to stay away from those manic pixie dream girls, so I don't think she would have been good for him. And he DID end up with Bast. Not in a permanent capacity, but I don't think Bast is the kind who wants a big commitment, but I'm sure she'd be up for a repeat performance if he comes around again. You're reading this as a love story, and it's not a love story. He doesn't end up with anyone at the end, because that wasn't what this book was about.
    • Laura is far from perfect but what character in this story is without flaw? That point is made very clearly at several points - everyone does some bad things during their lives. Yes, she slept with someone other than her husband (hate to say it, but with three years separation? statistically, most people do cheat. On first reading I was more surprised that she still wanted him back) and yes, she was involved in the bank robbery plot (and if she'd been responsible for her death it would have been amazingly stupid, but that was clearly somewhat divine meddling). She did not demand that Shadow resurrect her, he asked her what she wanted, and it was a pretty reasonable thing to want under the circumstances. I think it's sort of a pity that she died as it would have been interesting for her and Shadow to try and move past their earlier relationship and become independent friends.

  • Why are Media and the Internet separate entities? Shouldn't the internet, as a new medium, be an extension of Media? And is Media really a new god? She should have been in existence from the moment mankind invented writing. Heck, even cave drawings are a form of early Media.
    • It's all in how their believers believe them. Back then, there was media (and plenty of old pantheons did have gods of writing and art), but people didn't speak of The Media as an entity. Now we do, so there she is, and she looks like what you picture when you hear people speak of The Media. The Internet is separate because a lot of people still think of it as separate from TV and print, and the stereotypes attached to it are very different.
    • If you think about it, when people refer to "the media", they usually talk about the news, the TV, etc. Visual media, as it is. Internet and print media are usually referred to separately. Similarly, Media has been shown to be basically the spirit of TV & movies. Maybe her full name's actually "Visual Media" but shortens it for the same reasons we do. The Internet could be considered Media's child, if anything.
    • I took it Media to be the side of the mass media that was actually produced by professionals - The alphabet networks and the like, while Technical Boy was the side produced by amateurs like, well, TV Tropes.
      • Correct, also Media is based on showmanship and presentation and Technical boy on, well, technology and interconnectivity.
    • The Media is mentioned 'killing her children.' I understood that Media is the mother of the mediums, like TV, Radio, Newspaper and Internet, and that, for example, Town Crier was killed off by Newspaper, and that other media are getting weaker because of Internet.
      • The character mishears and is actually referring to Medea from Greek mythology, who killed her two children.
      • Then again, though...
      “Different woman,” said Mr. Nancy. “Same deal.”

  • Okay, Monarch of the Glenn establishes that Shadow is Baldur, the god of Light. My question is, HOW is Shadow Baldur and not just a demi-god in his own right? I mean, Baldur is the son of Odin and Frigga, and last I checked, Shadow's mom was NOT Frigga.
    • Reincarnation.
    • Which foreshadows an even greater destiny for Shadow. In the Poetic Edda, Baldur is released from Hel's domain to rule over the new world after Ragnarok.
      • I think Shadow being Baldur explains a lot about his motivations and the way he reacts to the entire situation. When he first finds out about the Gods and everything else, he doesn't react like someone who is just finding out, instead he reacts as if it is something he instinctively always knew and was just relearning.
    • Also remember that he is only the American Balder, in the same way as Wednesday is the American Odin. Presumably the was/is a different Balder in Scandinavia.
    • It's worth noting that the version of Baldur everyone knows is Snorri Sturluson's version. There's a version told by Saxo Grammaticus in which Baldur actually is a demi-god. Shadow seems more like Snorri's Baldur (Saxo's was a jerk) but perhaps the existence of different myths allows for him to be a demi-god.
    • "History doesn't repeat, it rhymes" and "the same shapes keep appearing in history" and other such misremembered lines. Shadow does not have to be Balder by being an old forgotten old born centuries ago like the rest of them. He can be Balder by being the shape that fills the Balder shaped hole in the story.
  • Why is Mama Ji in with the rest of the gods? There's a pretty solid Hindu population in America so while it's not like anyone's doing any sacrifices to the dark goddess of Calucutta, she'd hardly be merely subsisting like the others.
    • She actually says she's doing well. At one point Wednesday mentions that the attack on the gathering of the gods convinced several of them to join up, and Mama-ji was the most skeptical before that point. She's not hard up for belief, but she's scared of dying.

  • So why are all the new gods evil? I know that in the end some of the old gods were evil too, but why are all the new gods evil?
    • They're not evil. They're people fallen on hard times trying to stay alive, and hopefully find some prosper as well. That leads to desperate acts. And it's best to remember that Jerkass Gods seems to be the traditional template in almost every religion at some point or another. And seriously, did you actually think that Anubis and Thoth did anything "evil" in the course of the entire book?
      • I think by "New Gods" he meant the Mr.s, the Internet, the Automobile, etc.
    • Before the battle took off, a delegation of New Gods sent the technical boy to ask Mr. World if they really had to fight. That's not evil. The spookshow were Punchclock Villains, so they weren't evil either.
      • Basically, they were conceited (the speeches the tech kid and Media give basically go "get out of the way, oldies"), scared of both the Old Gods and their own quick-livedness (mention is given of trains being supplanted by automobiles), and manipulated by Mr. World into believing the Old Gods were the enemy.
    • Pretty much you're seeing Shadow's perspective throughout the novel, and Shadow is on the side of the old gods. Plus, the new gods are being manipulated by Mr. World, just as much as Wednesday was conning the old ones (the spookshow have no idea why they're being sent after Shadow). Neither side are particularly evil, they're just... on different sides.
    • Gaiman even hints at this interpretation at least once: Mr. Nancy mentions that the new gods are messing with things that mess back with them, implying that the very source of their power and existence sets them on a knife edge of their own undoing. Not at all like, say, requiring blood and life sacrifices from your followers to sustain you. Remember, Wednesday himself is in decline because, as it turns out, people don't like having to kill each other to ensure prosperity. It's not shown if Mr. Nancy gets the irony of his statement.
    • In short, it turns out to be Gray and Gray Morality.

  • In the "deleted scene" in the Author's Preferred Text, is... is Jesus supposed to be a film producer? There's the beard, the suit, and then... the baseball cap?
    • A lot of people, this troper included, like to think of Jesus as this approachable, likable kind of guy, not a majestic savior-king who you have to bow down to. The jokes about water into wine, the baseball cap, it all seems like that was Gaiman's way of showing that aspect of Jesus in his portrayal of him. Like he says, being a god means being so many different things at once, so I think that Gaiman's Jesus is a sort of composite of everything America expects Jesus to be.
      • Ah. Okay. That makes more sense. I was thinking of this story of Gaiman's ("The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories") about a British writer going to Hollywood to adapt his bestselling novel into a screenplay, and many of the men he talked to had beards and/or baseball caps, and one of them is even described as looking a little like Jesus.

  • This a fairly small detail, but bugs me... so who died the effreti or the human that took his identity?
    • IIRC, the man who had befriended the ifrit assumed the identity/became an ifrit and the original died. I believe that he was the Arab taxi driver who died in New York some chapters later.
      • I think you're right on the second point - the taxi driver who died "offscreen" was probably the salesman. But I didn't think the original jinn/ifrit died, I got the impression he assumed the salesman's identity (and took his plane ticket, passport, etc) and went back to the Middle East. The salesman seemed to be enjoying New York and hated his life in Oman; the jinn/ifrit hated his life in NYC and missed the Middle East. I assumed the salesman's death was a case of mistaken identity - new gods trying to kill the ifrit.
  • While it's an entertaining enough story, this always bugged me about American Gods: why are the "new gods" personifications of new media? The Internet is not a modern god, as much as the Moral Guardians would have us believe people literally worship at its altar. If Gaiman wanted a story about the old gods supplanted or killed by the new, wouldn't modern monotheist gods be the logical modern equivalent? Not that the book would ever have been published if he'd gone that route, but still, the fundamental concept of the story always seemed off, to me.
    • It isn't belief that empowers, its worship (as shown by Wednesday's plan to have a battle in tribute to himself to empower himself, despite none of the combatants believing in him like a member of his cult would, or even knowing that was the true purpose), and what qualifies as worship varies from god to god. Sure, people believe more in monotheism than in the trappings of modern society, but they worship the new media gods more - they watch TV, empowering the personification of TV, they die in car crashes, sacrificing their life unintentionally in tribute to the Personification of Cars, etc. Its as much a commentary on what we spend our time and energy doing as anything else.
    • This bothered me too. Also, I keep thinking that there could be better ideas for modern gods. Examples: Idols. People keep saying that Elvis lives; maybe Elvis became a god post-mortem? Gaining power through people listening to his music and watching his movies? Same with many other idols. And related to that, personality cults. Secondly, nations; nationalism is a very modern thing and even religious studies sometimes talks about it as a form of religion. And people definitely give "blood sacrifices" to their nations. I realize that there already is a personification of America in the book but it seems to be more like a personification of the land rather than the nation. And, I mean, in the 19th century, people even depicted nations as goddesses, like "Columbia", "Britannia", "Marianne", "Mother Russia", "Germania", etc. Or the more mundane personifications like Uncle Sam and John Bull. Then there are other ideas like certain popular fictional characters, especially those of children's stories (since children are more likely to believe, at least in some way, in those characters), etc.
      • It's easy to miss, but Elvis is in the story. He's one of the people Shadow ferries back from the House Under The Rock, right before he gets captured by the spooks. It's fair to say that there are other idols out there, we just haven't seen them.
      • That's Alviss, a Dwarf from Norse mythology. Similar name, different myth.
    • I guess what bothers me about it is that it's basically saying that people worship cars, television and the internet in the same way as people once worshiped gods, seemingly falling into the same "safe zone" as most modern media. "Well, the gods people currently believe in are off limits, but we can do whatever we want with the classical deities." Sure, we drive cars, we die in them, we surf the net, but I would think that, you know...going to church and praying is pretty much the same as it ever was, maybe with less human sacrifice involved, granted. The book seems to contend that the nature of worship has changed.
      • I got the impression that gods—old and new—are empowered at least as much by sacrifice as by worship in the modern Judeo-Christian sense. This is reinforced by Media's comment—when Shadow asks her what people sacrifice to her, she responds with "Their time. Sometimes their lives." People are dedicating an insane amount of time and interest to the internet, the television, the automobile, etc. And in a sense, there are indeed lives being sacrificed on those altars. Suicides committed on account of cyber bullying could be considered a "sacrifice" to the internet. People ignore the dangers of driving a car due to their convenience, and as such car accidents are a major cause of death in the US; could this not be seen as a sacrifice as well?
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