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American Gods Chapter Four: Czernobog and the Norns 
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Post American Gods Chapter Four: Czernobog and the Norns
Synopsis: Wednesday explains the secret of his charm. He and Shadow drive to Chicago, which 'happens slowly like a migraine'. They visit Czernobog, an Eastern European immigrant who lives with three old ladies. Czernobog tells them about his career as a knocker in the abattoir, and plays checkers with Shadow, for high stakes. Shadow is woken by Zorya Ppolunochnaya, who takes him to the roof to see the stars and the moon 'in a world with its own sense of logic'.



Mon Jun 01, 2009 12:23 am
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Suzanne E. Smith wrote:
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People and animals are treated disrespectfully, as though life has no meaning.
Robert, thank you for your wonderful reply. I wish I knew more history and more about different religions, so that I could better interpret this novel. Please see the quotes below from Czernobog to understand what I meant about the lack of respect for human and animal life in this book.
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I get a job in the meat business. When the steer comes up the ramp, I was a knocker. There was an art to it. To the blow (using a sledgehammer). Then, in the fifties, they give us the bolt gun. Now you think, anybody can kill. Not so. It still takes skill. If I win (checkers), I get to knock your brains (Shadow's) out. With the sledgehammer. First you go down on your knees. Then I hit you a blow with it, so you don't get up again.
In my opinion, Czernobog has depersonalized the act of murder and is a sociopath. He treats Shadow as though Shadow was another cow (most normal people could never even kill a cow--I could not). Czernobog appears to lack a Theory of Mind (from Primates and Philosophers), and is incapable of showing empathy, sympathy, fairness, or taking another's perspective. Suzanne S.


What I like about Czernobog is that in this character Gaiman has distilled important stereotypes of Slavic culture. He is avuncular but issues this blood-curdling threat to Shadow, and you feel he would do it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobog says Czernobog's mythology is sketchy, but he seems to be an evil god. Frowl says Czernobog is "also known as Crnobog or Chernobog, he is the Slavic god of the dead, the night, and chaos. He is the opposite of Bielebog. "Chernobog" translates literally from Russian as "black god"."

So one wonders why Wednesday would recruit him to his campaign, given these dubious character references. He makes up a rather motley crew when his only motive is to bash in the brains of the hero. It gives the whole pagan enterprise an ambiguous colour to say the least.

I think the discussion of the abattoir is intended to produce repugnance for Czernobog, but also recognition that he did a hidden job that everyone who eats meat benefits from, and an allusion to Upton Sinclair's The Jungle - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jungle the great book about the Chicago meatpacking business.

The Great Terror - A Reassessment by Robert Conquest portrays Stalin as a secretive and deceptive tyrant, and made me wonder what is it about the Russian soul that allowed such a monster to come to absolute power for thirty years. Czernobog reminded me of Stalin, with a twinkle in his eye as he plots death.

Norn wiki is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norns
The frowl summary says
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Norns: In Norse mythology, these three sisters are the demi-goddesses of destiny. They are Urd ("fate"), Verdandi ("necessity") and Skuld ("being"). They live at the base of Yggdrasil, the World Tree. They pour water from the Well of Fate over Yggdrasil to try to prevent it from decaying. They also had another task: Urd made the thread of everyone's life, Verdandi measured it up, and Skuld cut it.

The Norns also appear in The Matrix as the Fates, creating an apparent link between Shadow and Perseus. Information about the Fates is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moirae



Thu Jun 04, 2009 5:55 pm
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Terrific research.

Also, I would like to add that the bet Shadow made is a reference to the Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as told by the Knight in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, a retelling of the Anglo-Saxon romance fairy-tale I believe.



Thu Jun 04, 2009 10:36 pm
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Post Norns
Hello Robert:

I am confused. I see the sisters as the Auroras, Morning, Evening and Midnight. I say this, because of the sleeping habits of the three sisters, and also the refferance to the chariot of the sun. Morning would let the sun out, Evening would let the sun back through the gates, and Midnight watched the stars to insure the "Bear" did not get lose. Shadow has a midnight rondevous with "Midnight".

Mary Lupin proposed that Gaiman evolved the Auroras into the Norns. What is your take on this? It seems, all six exist.



Fri Jun 05, 2009 8:10 am
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