Welcome to my first discourse on Neil Gaiman and his works. In case you haven’t heard, he’s all the rage right now. Go read his works, if you haven’t yet, and then get back here. Or read this and find your reason to read all his work as obsessively as the rest of the world is at the moment. If you have read his works before, this isn’t a book review as you know them. Rather, it’s a moment for us to talk about all the sort of insane deeper level concepts that Gaiman pulls on in these works. You too might find yourself missing Morpheus one night, these concepts spiraling infinitely out of control. Let’s begin with American Gods.
Norse Myth! OMNG! (Gagging my inner fangirl. So sorry.) Have I mention I took a class for that? In said class, we read a lot of eddas and sagas, so many so that I sort of look at this work like a later day Edda because it so is. If these gods had people writing Eddas about them right now, I feel American Gods is what it would look like. So, pat on the back, Neil Gaiman. Pat on the back.
I do know my myths (especially the Norse legends), so I called the ending at around page 100 or so. Not being able to predict the end makes me happy because the author was able to slip under my nose for hours and surprise an ending on me. I understand the need to drop in the lines that make the end seem plausible, but in simply knowing a particular character, I was able to predict the end. I also have been trained in writing, so I sort of know how to spot authors dropping plot points. The writing kept me going though, and it was interesting to read, even if I knew what was going to happen, just to see how it would all play out. Kudos for keeping Odin in character.
The Big Concept that bothers me late a night: The Power of Thought
Let me lay some Plato on you, and no, not that squishy colored stuff that you can mold into fun shapes. P-L-A-T-O. That really old Greek guy. In the Symposium, it is put forward that at the beginning of time, humans were much stronger and once tried to reach the heavens to attack the gods, much like the story of Babel. In punishment, humans were ripped in half, with our navels as the everlasting reminder of that punishment. So here is where things get wonky. The gods thought about obliterating humans from the face of the earth as punishment but refrained because the sacrifices they received from humanity would also end. These sacrifices, where they just something the gods enjoyed or were they something they needed to survive, like in Supernatural?
Now, let’s roll in Philip, a thoughtform. (Thank you SPN fans for such a great definition!). There was an experiment conducted by a group of Canadian parapsychologists to bring an artificial ghost into existence by concentration and thought alone. That’s some power of positive thinking, believing a thing so hard it becomes real. This concept is similar to that of the Tulpa or Golem without the physical manifestation.
Finally, my dear fellow Whovians, do we not recall an episode in which Martha spent a year specifically carrying out one single task? One task that would save them all from the Master’s plan? What was this task? To have every single person on the planet think of one person at the exact same time. With the energy from those thoughts and a gizmo, the Doctor was able to over power the Master.
Thought has power. In American Gods, the gods have to be brought over with people. They don’t simply appear here in America. People carry them here in their minds and their actions. And that’s a big idea to put forth: gods are real because when we think about them and make them offerings. We give them their power.
It’s almost like every “we have to save Christmas” movie ever. There isn’t enough Christmas spirit to make Santa’s sled fly or something, but if enough people believe in something it can happen—not because there was a real effort made, but simply through the power of thought and belief. Santa is real when you are a child, and you believe in him, but once you stop believing in him, he stops existing.
Is it the same with the gods? Maybe all the gods are thoughtforms. Could they exist if we didn’t think about them or would they stop existing if we stopped offering them tribute, just turned around and decided to not believe in them any more, like in the movie Merlin? Is it just some insane temporal causality loop that they exist because we think they do, and that we exist because they made us? I have spent many nights wondering if only the gods real. Maybe now, I won’t be the only one sleepless over thoughts.