American Gods Study Guide

American Gods

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods tells the story of Shadow, an ex-convict who is hired by the mysterious Mr. Wednesday after he gets out of prison. As they crisscross the country, seeking out strange people for some unknown purpose, Shadow is thrust into other realities, is threatened by ancient gods, and realizes that he has been manipulated in more ways than one. The novel incorporates mythological traditions from many different cultures and explores the themes of loyalty, trickery, tradition, and sacrifice.

  • Shadow Moon – An ex-convict who becomes the reluctant bodyguard and errand boy of Mr. Wednesday, an incarnation of the Old Norse god Odin.
  • Laura Moon - Shadow Moon's wife who died in a car crash at the beginning of the novel a few days before Shadow is due to be released from prison.
  • Samantha "Sam" Black Crow - A hitchhiking college student Shadow meets during his journey who becomes his confidant and who may have mythological connections of her own.
  • Chad Mulligan - A kind-hearted chief of police who befriends Shadow during his stay in the town of Lakeside.

Old Gods:

  • Mr. Wednesday – Odin, the Old Norse god of knowledge and wisdom, aspects which he uses to his advantage as a confidence artist. He spends most of the story trying to get other old gods to join him in the inevitable war.
  • Czernobog – The Slavic god of darkness, twin brother to Bielebog, the god of light.
  • The Zorya Sisters - The Zorya Sisters, relatives of Czernobog, are sisters representing the Morning Star (Zorya Utrennyaya), the Evening Star (Zorya Vechernyaya), and the Midnight Star (Zorya Polunochnaya). In Slavic lore, they are servants of Dažbog who guard and watch over the doomsday hound, Simargl, who is chained to the star Polaris in the constellation Ursa Minor, the "little bear". If the chain ever breaks, the hound will devour the world.
  • Mr. Nancy – Anansi, a trickster spider-man from African folklore. He often makes fun of people for their stupidity, a recurring aspect of his personality in his old stories.
  • Mr. Ibis – Thoth, the Ancient Egyptian god of knowledge and writing. He runs a funeral parlor with Mr. Jacquel in Cairo, Illinois. He often writes short biographies of people who brought folkloric beings with them to America.
  • Mr. Jaquel – Anubis, the Ancient Egyptian god of the dead and mummification. He is an expert at preparing bodies for the wake at funerals.
  • Easter – Ēostre, the Germanic goddess of the dawn.
  • Mad Sweeney – Suibhne, a king from an old Irish story. Though not portrayed as such in his story, he calls himself a "Leprechaun," perhaps referring to how Irishmen are seen in America: a foul-mouthed, frequent drinker, who is taller than expected.
  • Whiskey Jack – Wisakedjak, a trickster figure of Algonquian mythology. He lives near a Lakota reservation in the badlands with John Chapman, where he is mistaken for Iktomi, a trickster of their culture.
  • John Chapman – Johnny Appleseed
  • Low-Key Lyesmith – Loki, the Old Norse god of mischief and trickery.
  • Hinzelmann - A kobold who was formerly revered as a tribal god by ancient Germanic tribes. He protects the town of Lakeside, in the guise of an old man, by sacrificing one child each year.
  • Bilquis - Queen of Sheba, as mentioned in the Bible. Also, believed to be half-jinn. She plays a prostitute who devours men via her vagina.
  • Mama-Ji - Kali, the Hindu goddess of time and destruction. Reluctant of Wednesday's ideals but becomes an ally.

New Gods:

  • The Technical Boy – New god of computers and the Internet. He is adamant that the new gods should prevail over the old gods. As the personification of the internet, he resembles the stereotype of a fat, arrogant, basement-dwelling internet poster, who dresses like characters from The Matrix because he thinks it makes him look cool. He looks like a teenager with bad acne, because he is young even compared to the other new gods (though he has quickly become one of the most powerful of them). Other characters derisively call him "the fat kid".
  • Media – New goddess of television. She first appears in the form of Lucy Ricardo from the well-known show "I Love Lucy" . Later she appears as a female news anchor.
  • The Black Hats – Mister World, Mister Town, Mister Wood and Mister Stone exist out of America's obsession with Black helicopters and the Men in Black. They work as spooks for the new gods.
  • The Intangibles - New gods of the modern stock market, the personification of the "Invisible hand of the market". They would prefer not to directly confront the old gods, because they "are pretty much in favor of letting market forces take care of it."

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