Sometimes the name one is given at birth is not the true name of one's soul. That is why many American Indian tribes leave naming until the child's personality differentiates him/her from the rest. I know that the name I have to sign on my cheques is not the name I AM inside.
"I know that the name I have to sign on my cheques is not the name I AM inside."
Whoa. OK, now that's deeper than I was going, certainly, but actually it's kind of the point I was trying to make. I have no problem accepting that "Baldur Moon" is the REAL name of Shadow, but that doesn't solve anything but the *first* puzzle, not all the puzzles. Identity is far more than just names, and that's all I was trying to say.
I've already made my case for the three Western deities/traditions I see tied up in Shadow. Does anyone see anything specific from Native American tradition? Is there a thunder god in anyone's pantheon, or is maybe the coin thing a sign of some version of a "trickster" character? Anyone know any good Coyote stories?
I know quite a few Coyote stories but rather than tell them (Barry Lopez's book Giving Birth to Thunder, Sleeping With His Daughter is a good place to go if you're interested) I'll just say that there's very little that's Coyote-like about Shadow, except in the vaguest senses: Coyote can be intensely gullible, and finds himself in a lot of strange situations. But I don't think there's a connection to the two.
I am intrigued by the discussion of Shadow's real name and whether or not that makes him THE Baldur. I'd accidentally read a spoiler thread or two when I was halfway through the book, so I knew ahead of time that he was Wednesday's son - which, in my mind, made my head skip ahead to assume that he was Baldur, regardless of name. If I'd been thinking more analytically, it would have been clear even soon, what with Wednesday and Loki trying to bring about Ragnarok and whatnot. Shadow's death and rebirth - just as Ragnarok is beginning - suits the myth (though it doesn't occur in the expected manner), but doesn't make sense in AG with the way the gods came to America. How, if he's the Baldur we know from myth, did he just get born here? Why didn't he come over ages ago when the other did? Or did he, and then did he die and continue to reappear, the way Wednesday reappears at the end, but somehow without any knowledge of who/how he'd been before?
I do like the idea that he's a combination of the old country gods and something native, and given Whiskey Jack's seeming affection for him that would make a lot of sense (I know nothing about the background to WJ's character; can anyone point me at some tales or such that will fill me in?) It would also explain why the land speaks to him, why the thunderbirds appear in his dreams and to help Easter save him, and a few other things that slip my mind right now. So who was his mother? That's the real question, isn't it? And one we're not likely to figure out the answer to, I think. But speculating is always fun.
Somewhat unrelatedly I have to say I love Odin's final appearance. Classically outfitted, demanding, guiltless, almost oblivious to what's gone on, even though he does know Wednesday's actions were part of him. And I love how many more characters from myth appear throughout the book that I've forgotten or whose names I barely even know. I want to spend my entire day reminding myself who's who and what's what and from where and learning the ones I didn't know before.
I don't know a whole lot about Whiskey Jack -- he's from a more northerly way than most of my American Indian stories (and I have a handful of good Coyote and Raven stories, and have to say I agree with Straylight about Shadow not being very Coyote-like) -- but whoever mentioned him and Charles de Lint in the same breath is right. He shows up in a fair amount of CdL's stuff, especially the Newford books.
Shameless plug here: CdL's Someplace To Be Flying has an interesting take on both the characters of Raven and Coyote and the theme (which also shows up in a lot of his work) of forgotten mythology. Just goes to show what common bits and broths crop up in the soup of Story.
Hello! I was was just following the thread, and thought that I would chime in my thoughts. While I agree that there is definately more to Shadow than his name, I must say that his story is VERY Baldur-like. Everyone who meets him seems to like him (except for Mr. Towne and Loki). He is connected to the sun, through the golden coin that Mad Sweeney gave him, and Baldur was emblematic of the sun, as the sunset is emblematic of his funeral pyre. He was the son of Odin, and he died. But he was also reborn, just like Baldur. In the sagas Baldur remains in the underworld despite the gods' best efforts until after Ragnarok, the Twilight of the gods. The gods and monsters all duke it out, and they all die, and the world tree collapses and everything ends. But AFTERWARDS, a new world is born out of the ashes of the old, and Baldur rises up out of the now un-guarded underworld and takes his place in the new world of renewal. It is not a direct parallel, but all of the main points are hit upon.
Also, the actual god Baldur would not be walking around America because all of the Vikings would have visuallized him as dead, not walking around. The gods of AG are not dead gods, just forgotten. So Baldur has no place among them.
One last thought; if Shadow was Baldur, than who played the part of Hodr, the blind god decieved by Loki into killing Baldur with a dart or arrow made of mistletoe? Was it Mr. Towne, with his ash stick? When he "stabbed" Shadow, he was still alive (at least he was bleeding). Just a thought.
I was just wondering about Hoder!
It seemed to me that Mr. Town didn't physically stab Shadow, but imagined doing so. Of course that has the same affect under the circumstances... but it's the exact *opposite* of what Hoder did, which was imagine in his mind's eye that the mistletoe glanced away as it should, when in fact it pierced his brother's chest and killed him.
Also... on the Christ figure point... Balder can be a Christ-like guy, (as can Dionysus if I remember correctly) as the child-of-God who grows up beloved, is killed, and then brought back.
Baldur, Jesus, and the Fisher King can all be seen as aspects of the same divinity. In The Golden Bough Sir James Frazer discusses the recurring themes of the god who suffers, dies, and is resurrected (returning from the dead with boons for all), and connects these figures with ancient fertility rites connected with the rebirth of the land in the springtime. There's a reason Shadow and Easter hit it off.
I like the idea that although Shadow is named Baldur, and takes on aspects of his namesake, he is not truly the Baldur of the Norse myths, but a new American Baldur, an American version of the Dying God. If, as others have suggested, Shadow's mother is Native American, then this would account for his connection with the spirit of the land (the buffalo-headed man in his dreams). On the other hand, when girl-Sam asks if he's Native American, he says, "Not that I know of," and it seems likely that if his mother had been he would have known.
I was just reading Leda and The Swan by Yeats. I think it has some bearing. Zeus (God) enters history by raping Leda and then Helen is born etc. so we have the Greek age. Then there's Yahweh (God)entering history with Jesus and Mary etc. the Christian era So, now in American Gods we have Odin (God) entering history and a new American Era with a new god-ish/hero, Shadow. American in that he's both old world (Odin) and new (Native AMerican). Neil even quotes Yeats, too. Hey, I'm no expert on this stuff, but these thoughts slipped through and I thought I'd share.
Yeah, "Second Coming". Great poem. It's the double funnel analogy. Which fits in rather well with the entire book, if you ask me.
Someone commented on Shadow's connection with the sun. I think he had a deeper affinity towards the moon, and he walked rather easily among the dead (Also keep in mind his relationship with Mr. Ibis and Mr. Jaquel, and his interlude with Bast... Egypt mythology thrives on death, on judgement, on the two sided coin of life and death), not to mention which Zorya sister took the greatest liking to him.
Speaking of coins... think that gold coin Shadow gave Laura was two sided? Maybe that's why she came back from the dead?
A little curious...
There are simply to many clues leading to the identity and true name of Shadow.
So...We know that first of all he is of Native origin.In the book it points out that he has black hair and cream and coffee colored skin.Also,Whiskey Jack asked him twice if he had found his tribe.
I did some thinking as to why Shadow is unaware of his identity.It is clear that he is Baldur by the way.
In the myth of Baldur I would like to point out one specific part that I found interesting. In the mythology it says that after his dealth, Baldur will remain dead until the time of the Ragnarok.
The "Ragnarok" was seen the be a battle of sorts between the gods.Some see it as an age of enlightenment.The "Twilight of the Gods".So,that would explain why it is that Shadow is unaware of who he is and the power he has until after the "storm" or in my opinion the Ragnarok.
Laura in the book she had mentioned also the Shadow was not living.
Ragardless of the fact that "shadow" is Baldur.Why he was unaware of this I did not know until I reread the Norse Mythologys.
Either fact or just a good theory, it all makes since to me.
Great theory - Baldur was techigually 'dead' until he had to take part in the battle which started with his time on the tree. Shadow is 'dead' until then. I love it!
Further, the reason Baldur would not have been in America before he was born here was that he was probably not worshipped. Like Promethius, I guess - a person in mythology, but no one actually worshipped them enough for a physical manifestation in America.
I also agree that Shadow is Native American - the Land talks to him: a buffalo-headed spirit. The Land is a Native America concept in the book (in appearence and action). He is also a god of sorts (being Baldur), which is why the Land came to him in the first place. He was more than 'man' enough to act in this affair of gods.
Baldur is also the norse god of light and love.Which would explain why everyone warms up to Shadow so easily."Everyones got a heart-on for this kid".
Also,the midnight sister claimed that, once he had the sun.Then he lost it.
He is also the peacemaker between the two sides in the battle.
After the Ragnarok and the chaos at hand is gone the age of enlightenment starts.I think that Samantha plays an important role in which... I think she represents the regular humans (Us).Her friend begins to read an article about how America is changing.After this Sam begins to tell her of the strange dreams she is having in which she meets the buffalo "woman" (the land)and the star people. Sam is a regular person...?
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Hiro_Protagonist:
[B]I'll accept that Neil "confirmed" Koanju's suggestion for Shadow's name, but what I can't accept is that the name really describes his identity. I see at least three different mythological identities surfacing in Shadow.
2. Thor - 1932 suicide or no 1932 suicide, some of the elements just point too strongly to Thor to completely discount his presence. First Shadow calls an enormous winter storm, later on the tree he first feels "fully alive" in the midst of the storm, and the description of his ride on the thunderbird implies a major affinity with the beast and the natural force it represented.
I've been hesitant to post here, but I've decided to get over it. I've really enjoyed watching this topic grow.
For what it's worth, at the Dayton OH signing, I asked Gaiman if Shadow was really Thor, and he politely said "No, but the clues are in there to figure it out..." and I was mortified. Faceless and nameless in an endless number of fans that he had seen over the previous weeks, but still feeling like after saying that I had loved the book (having read the UK advance readin copy)I felt like I was someone who just obviously didn't "get it." The next day I read the CONFIRMED=Baldur quote, and was equally crushed, because I thought that Baldur was too easy of a choice, that it had to be the choice that should occur to you, only to have it be..."X".
I felt like I was the only one who could possibly have thought that Shadow may have been Thor, until reading the bit above from Hiro_Protagonist, though I wasn't thinking exactly the same things.
My theory was that maybe Thor wasn't actually dead, (his death is only a quick comment to shadow, a comment from Odin.)Maybe Thor/Shadow somehow just didn't know who he was and Odin was telling him things keep him from realizing his true self to keep him, Shadow, from being able to screw up his, Odin's, plan, as Thor would have enough power to do so. I feel stupid writing this all out!!! There were odd signs, one scene after the first Bar meeting with Odin and the Leprechaun, Shadow wakes up and Odin says "look what the goat dragged in." And Shadow says "Cat." And Odin says "No, goat, Rank smelly goat." (or such) And I was thinking Thor's goat(s)? and other major part of Thor myth Story: His size and strength, part of which is that he is the protecter of the Gods and Humans, which his intervention at the Ragnarock battle could support. The hammer, or lack of one, is the thing that bugged me, but Shadow had the coins that maybe somehow took the place of the hammer, that one's a stretch. Maybe Czernobog's (sp) hammer is really Mjolnir waiting for Thor to get, maybe in the end as he is supposed to? I know, that's a bigger stretch, but these things all sounded great to me in line at the signing...
Regardless, I think that Baldur is a great fit, and his examination in this topic hsa been very educational for me, especially with that mistletoe refernce from Loki, which I TOTALLY missed upon reading. I just thought that maybe Shadow was Thor and that Thor was just too strong for Odin and Loki to fight, in whatever sense of the word, so they were trying to keep him from joining the fight by making him believe that he was someone else.
Ultimately, I think I over-thought it, and should just have read here instead of asking Gaiman himself, and looking like an idiot. That's all I really had. One bad story...
Sorry it's so long!
Thor is a good guess, being one of the sons of Odin. I thought that for a time, but there was some evidence against it - lack of hammer for one.
Second, in some legends Thor is dumb, and I mean DUMB! Shadow, while quiet, was intelligent even if most people did not think so. He proved it many times over.
But do not feel that you "didn't get it" - there are clues and there are distractions - your ideas are not bad. Especially with Shadow conjuring the storm - that seems very Thor-ish.
Thanks, Jaer, for the kind words, it's definitely appreciated. The whole lightning theme was probably what distracted me to begin with. Part of me thought that with Thor being so dumb in most of the myth tales, especially the Season of Mists story arc in Sandman, that Gaiman might expect that a reader might have a certain bias built in, and wouldn't necessarily suspect Thor, especially without the hammer. I was just totally on the wrong track. I wish I had just known a little more about Baldur to have made all of the connections that I've read on this topic.
I will say that re-reading the book without the question of Shadow's true name being a distraction, of sorts, it was a little bit more enjoyable, not that I didn't like it before.
I do have to say this, though: Part of me can't help but feel that a large chunk of American Gods is a re-examination, so to speak, of what was essentially the "Season of Mists" storyline (and obviously later Sandman issues), taking all of these God's and playing with them and their individual mythological personalities and "reputations." (Also, again, without any significant mention of the Greek and Roman pantheons)
It's interesting to me to see the two stories side by side (though, I do have to say that "Season of Mists" will always hold a stronger place in my heart) But, with the numbers that this book is selling now, I just wonder how many people have read "American Gods", but have never read "Seasons.." I just wonder, because I don't think that I would have bonded so quickly to "American Gods", had "Seasons.." not existed. Am I the only one who feels this way?
Thanks again, Jaer, I am know officially letting my frustration at having guessed wrong behind me knowing that it could have been worse and that I could have guessed that it was Puck or something, I don't know.
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Excuse my ignorance, but can somebody give me some info about Baldur? I know bascially about the Norse gods but for some reason I don't know much about him. Thanks.
Oh, and for some reason I name all my RPG characters something Moon something. Including my Baldur's Gate 2 character. In fact, his last name may have been Azur Moonshadow (I haven't played in a while). Considering I started playing before i heard about AG, does anyone else find that strange?
Just a quick comment about something that was mentioned earlier in this thread: the Odin that was seen at the end of the book was NOT Wednesday. Wednesday was the Odin that came to America; Shadow spoke to the Odin that stayed in Iceland. It was explained elsewhere in the book (regarding one of the goddesses from India, I think) how worshiping the same god in more than one place creates multiple "copies" of that god. So Wednesday was Odin, but the Odin in Iceland was definitely not Wednesday. And yes, somehow they all network throughout the world so that the Icelandic Odin can be aware of what the American Odin was up to, but the affair in America ONLY involved the gods forgotten in America. The same gods in other countries, where their worship has not been forgotten, were not involved.
Someone earlier suggested that Shadow's mother might have been a Native American. I was thinking about what he said she did for a living, that she worked for US embassies and moved around a lot. Then I thought about the Navajo "Code Talkers", who were around more during W.W.II, which would make no sense in terms of timing, because Shadow was much younger than that.
Still, it's a possibility that there is a Native American tie in somewhere in Shadow's past.
why is it no-one discusses christ being an "odin-figure"?
...or any of the other dozens of mythological characters the "christ archetype" was based on?
carry on, back to the discussion.
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