I still have about 30 pages to go so maybe the story is resolved there but it has veered off to different plot strings. I am a huge fan of the book but can someone explain Wednesday's plan here:

  • Plan a 50-100 year plan (create a god war/massacre) with elaborate preparations and whole lot of incredible maneuvers and consistences to make it happen.

  • Execute the plan.

  • Tell Shadow about the plan.

  • Who then goes on to explain the plan to the gods who decide not to fight ruining Wednesday's execution.

I don't understand how Wednesday could be so brilliant the entire book and so dull (unless he intended it) to ruin his insanely elaborate grand plan last second in the most obvious way.

  • Is it possible you're reading an abridged version? I don't have my book with me at the moment (hence the comment instead of answer), but I remember Shadow figuring it out himself after his time on the tree and recognizing Loki as part of Odin's famous Two man schemes.
    – DonFusili
    Jan 15 '18 at 9:38

This is more or less "explained" in chapter 19, where Shadow talks to Whiskey Jack (quotes from the author's preferred text, emphasis mine):

“It’s not going to be a war.”

“Then what is it?”

Whiskey Jack crushed the beer can between his hands, pressing it until it was flat. “Look,” he said, and pointed to the waterfall. The sun was high enough that it caught the waterfall spray: a rainbow nimbus hung in the air. Shadow thought it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.

“It’s going to be a bloodbath,” said Whiskey Jack, flatly.

Shadow saw it then. He saw it all, stark in its simplicity. He shook his head, then he began to chuckle, and he shook his head some more, and the chuckle became a full-throated laugh.

“You okay?”

“I’m fine,” said Shadow. “I just saw the hidden Indians. Not all of them. But I saw them anyhow.”

“Probably Ho Chunk, then. Those guys never could hide worth a damn.” He looked up at the sun. “Time to go back,” he said. He stood up.

“It’s a two-man con,” said Shadow. “It’s not a war at all, is it?”

Whiskey Jack patted Shadow’s arm. “You’re not so dumb,” he said.

And then when Shadow talks to Loki:

“I figured it out,” said Shadow. “Kind of. I’m not sure when I figured it out. Maybe when I was hanging on the tree. Maybe before. It was from something Wednesday said to me, at Christmas.”

Loki just stared at him, saying nothing.

“It’s just a two-man con,” said Shadow. “Like the bishop and the diamond necklace and the cop. Like the guy with the fiddle, and the guy who wants to buy the fiddle, and the poor sap in between them who pays for the fiddle. Two men, who appear to be on opposite sides, playing the same game.”

Loki whispered, “You are ridiculous.”

“Why? I liked what you did at the motel. That was smart. You needed to be there, to make sure that everything went according to plan. I saw you. I even realized who you were. And I still never twigged that you were their Mister World. Or maybe I did, somewhere down deep. I knew I knew your voice, anyway.”
Also the subject of this question.

Wednesday never told Shadow this plan, but he told him of the fiddle con and the jewellery con. The point of those is - two men playing on opposite sides are actually working together, to con some third party.

Up to that point Shadow knows a few things: there's Wednesday, there's Loki (who's supposedly working for the new gods), and there's going to be a bloodbath between the old gods and the new gods. He remembers the jewellery con, and he remembers Wednesday needs a partner for that:

“Hey. Wednesday. Both of the scams you were telling me about—the violin scam and the bishop one, the bishop and the cop—” He hesitated, trying to form his thought, to bring it into focus.

“What of them?”

Then he had it. “They’re both two-man scams. One guy on each side. Did you used to have a partner?” Shadow’s breath came in clouds. He promised himself that when he got to Lakeside he would spend some of his Christmas bonus on the warmest, thickest winter coat that money could buy.

“Yes,” said Wednesday. “Yes. I had a partner. A junior partner. But, alas, those days are gone.”
Chapter 9

Wednesday had a junior partner. Someone who appeared to be working against him, but was in fact working with him. A very, very fitting candidate would be Loki, who's already working for the new gods. From there Shadow remembered that Loki's voice sounded a lot like Mr. World's voice, and from there he deduced the rest.

Wednesday is a god of war - he feeds on blood sacrifice. Loki is the god of chaos - he feeds on chaos. A "war", a bloodbath between the gods would provide nourishment for both.

If you're interested, there doesn't seem to be an "abridged" version of American Gods. Going by What was restored in the American Gods "tenth anniversary" edition?, nothing substantial was added to the book in the 10th anniversary edition, at least not enough to change such a major point.

  • This is a great answer thank you for that. I didn't realize that when Shadow confronted Loki and Wednesday it was already obvious he figured the whole thing out so they could talk about that. The question to follow that is why didn't they do anything about it? Loki literally died because he couldn't get more energy from the fight. Clearly Wednesday 'cared' for Shadow so much as to let him crucify himself to get more energy so it doesn't seem like restraining Shadow for 24 hours would be a problematic for him.
    – AA Mon
    Jan 16 '18 at 7:39
  • @AAMon Shadow didn't complete Wednesday's vigil, and just one sacrifice wouldn't be enough for a whole god to restore own powers. In my impression Loki and Odin put everything they had into making this battle happen, in the hopes that even if they're dead they'll be restored to full power when gods start slaughtering each other. They had no other reserves, so they couldn't do anything else. Jan 16 '18 at 10:19
  • Yea I think that is the only explanation because it's pretty silly a barely alive Shadow can ruin the whole thing because they were stretched THAT thin.
    – AA Mon
    Jan 17 '18 at 2:53

Wednesday doesn't tell him, Shadow finds out by himself during his resurrection by Easter.

From the Wikipedia summary:

Finally the New Gods seek to parley with Wednesday, but they murder him at the meeting. This act galvanizes the other Old Gods into action and they rally behind a common banner to face their enemies in battle. Shadow is bound by his contract with Wednesday to hold his vigil by re-enacting Odin's time hanging from a "World Tree" while pierced by a spear. Shadow dies and visits the land of the dead, where he is guided by Thoth, Zorya Polunochnaya, Bast and judged by Anubis. Easter later brings him back to life. During his time between life and death, Shadow learns that he is Wednesday's son, conceived as part of the deity's plans. He realizes Mr. World is secretly Low-key (Loki) Lyesmith and that Odin and Loki have been working a "two-man con". They orchestrated Shadow's birth, his meeting of Loki in disguise in prison, and Laura's death. As part of the con, Loki had ordered Odin's murder so that the battle between the New and Old Gods would serve as a sacrifice to Odin, restoring his power, while Loki would feed on the chaos of the battle.

I guess in an abridged version there might be a reasoning that Wednesday wants Shadow to know his plan because

Shadow is Wednesday's son and Wednesday could believe Shadow would join him

But that's speculation on my end since I only read Gaiman's preferred version.

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