Posted By Traveler on 12. Juni 2010
Well, this is the second to last day of Neil Gaiman Week and it hurts to know that I will not be able at all to fit all the stuff in I originally wanted to do. There is simply too much great stuff around to cover in one week. Oh well, the review of American Gods (one of my all-time favourite novels) and a closer look at Death (the character and the graphic novels The Time of Your Life and The High Cost of Living) will have to wait for now.
Tomorrow, I am going to end with a cthulhuesque piece by Neil Gaiman, the famous I, Cthulhu and today I will muse a little about mythology in Neil Gaimans work. This way, I will also be able to touch American Gods.
Nei Gaimans work is infused with mythology, both with actual mythology as can be seen in American Gods, and his very own. The most famous example of this are the Endless. Within the DC Universe (or at least the Sandman Universe) they are even more powerful than the gods. Destiny is the oldest of the seven, but Death is the one who will lock up the universe behind her once everything is finished.
For those of you who are not familiar with the endless, they are a happy, slightly dysfunctional family consiting of: Destiny, Death, Dream, Desire, Destruction, Despair and Delirium (she used to be Delight).
The Endless form their own very unique group of personifications of concepts. Some of them universal (Death, Destruction, maybe destiny). The others may only be valid within certain cultures or be restricted to influecing beings capable of emotions (I have no idea if microbes or plants dream, after all. Still, the concept is sound, it definitely holds the Sandman Universe together (I sound a bit like Obi Wan Kenobi here, don’t I). Also, real-world mythology features heavily in Gaiman’s work. From gods like Ubasti, Thor and Lucifer to mythical beings of various cultures and the Atlantean mage in The Books of Magic (not to mention the angel, his lover and their child…) and it all fist together. It does so beautifully.
The same is true for the logic behind the gods and their avatars in American Gods. I found the modern godlings like Television a very disturbing but insightful idea. People are really sacrificing time, families and lives to television and increasingly so, children are sacrified or sacrifice themselves to computers. There’s the story about the korean boy who collapsed after several days playing non-stop and we had a few cases in Germany of severely neglected, and sometimes tragically so, children, because their parents simply did not care and rather played at the computer or watched TV.
Also, the gods of American Gods very much reflect the reality of religions around the world. “He was me but I am not him.” says the Icelandic Odin at the end of the novel. I think the Kali or Vishu worshiped by Indians living in America for three generations is different from the ones worshiped in India for thousands of years.
And the “old gods” are not dead either. We still remember the Greek and Roman gods, we named planets after them. The temples of the Egyptian Gods receive floods of visitors while people are drainig out of churches run by pedophile priests. The last word has not been spoken yet. I even know and have talked to people who think Cthulhu is just as real as all the others (this is a positive statement, they did not mean to say, he is fiction like all the others).
Believe is a strange thing and American Gods makes this clear in a very insightful way.
Sadly, I have to stop my musings here… We are hosting a house-warming party tonight and there is still food to be prepared. If you just happen to be in Augsburg, drop me a line via email…