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In Neil Gaiman's American Gods novel, many of the gods and other mythological creatures are recognizable from real-world cultures. With most of these, the link to the real-world is very clear (either by being named outright or characteristics that are easily 'research-able', but I'm having trouble identifying which god one particular character represents.

When Wednesday is recruiting the old gods for his purpose, he goes to Las Vegas and meets a god. People are unable to remember his face but there is a feeling of money about him. He can sense the flow of commerce. Wednesday bribes him with a bottle of Soma, to bring him to his side.

Who is that god? Has it been ever revealed?

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    Note: some pages (like /questions) show an excerpt of the question. If the entire question text is marked as a spoiler, it still shows up; I suggest adding some extra text at the start to hide the spoiler part. – Niall C. Sep 11 '11 at 16:12
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    I read the book but I guess I forgot that part :( – erdiede Sep 11 '11 at 16:33
  • @niall Thank you. I'll do so. – KenSuvy Sep 11 '11 at 17:23
  • I knew who it was, but I forgot... – Chris May 2 '17 at 5:47
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Well, it's never directly answered in the book, and Neil has it addressed on his FAQ. (He was asked, and was gonna answer, then got asked NOT to answer, and agreed.)

Who was the forgotten God?

Okay, so who is the God who everyone forgets after meeting him (or at least, who Shadow forgets)?

For the god whose name everyone forgets in American Gods, is there actually a name? If we search long and hard and scour books and web sites and whatnot, is it possible for us to come up with the right answer? Or will we just be searching in vain?

who's the forgotten God?

I really was planning to answer it, but then we got....

Okay, so this isn't so much a question as a request for you to not answer a question that other people are probably going to ask.

Please don't reveal the identity of the god/folkloric entity that people always forget, without gigantic neon flashing spoiler signs.

I think I'm really close to identifying him; so I'm living with the daily terror, as I read the journal, of the cat being let out of the bag...

You're a nice author, so I'm sure you understand. Maybe a spoiler section could be set up separately if you do intend to answer this kind of thing? Thank-you!

Which I think, as heartfelt pleas go, is pretty heartfelt. And effective.

So, absent a more recent comment at a con or something, I think any other answers will be speculation at this point, even if very logical speculation :) You can find at least one discussion on it here.

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I saw on neilgaimanboard.com some one suggesting the following:

The "forgettable god" should be Mercury.

More explicitly, the "forgettable god" should be a Hindu deity named Budha, the son of the moon god Soma and Tara, the wife of Brihaspati, or Jupiter. Budha is one of the navagraha (literal nine-planets), or planet-gods in Vedic astrology; to the ancient Roman, he is Mercury.

Much like the Roman Mercury, the Hindu Mercury is a god of two things: wealth and the mind.

He governs commerce, both tangible and intangible; he grants wealth on to his devotees; he removes obstacles in the way of success.

As the god of knowledge, it is Mercury's power to both grant and erase wisdom. The "greatest among the wise," he has the ability to remove thoughts from minds as well as grant inspiration.

The "forgotten god" is a dark-haired, dark-eyed, well-manicured man. Budha had dark hair and dark eyes, and was considered to be the most attractive of the navagraha.

Now is were we really get analytical:

The element mercury, also known as quicksilver, is the only metal that is liquid at room temperature. It is notoriously difficult to contain and is extremely quick to evaporate; the phrase "like trying to hold mercury" is a common euphemism for things which are either easily forgotten, or difficult to contain.

The "forgettable god"'s home is Las Vegas, which Gaiman goes out of his way to describe as a place where money evaporates or melts away, just like all knowledge of the "forgettable god."

If Mercury is both the incarnation of money and knowledge, and mercury is also impossible to contain or retain, you get ... knowledge and wealth that is impossible to contain or retain. The forgettable god.

More details:

The forgettable god wore what Gaiman referred to several times as a "charcoal suit." The only thing that can contain or absorb liquid mercury is charcoal, which is utilized in containers designed to control mercury spills.

Wednesday orders the forgotten god a Laphroaig and water while they're at the bar. Laphroaig is a single-malt Scotch whisky famous for its peaty aroma, the result of a distilling process that involves peat from the local peat bogs used to dry the malt. Mercury is a natural byproduct of peat.

Gaseous mercury is used to create neon lights, which Gaiman notes numerous times are the hallmark of Vegas.

While I've already noted it, I think it's important to restate that Mercury was the son of Soma.

Finally, the Hindu word for Wednesday is derived from Budha's (Mercury's) name, just as our word for Wednesday is derived from Odin's name. This may further explain why Neil made Budha the "forgotten god" - because the book already had a Wednesday. (It also explains Neil's use of the song titled Why Can't He Be You - think about it for a minute - during the scene in the bar when Wednesday and Mercury meet, and why Neil chose to describe the two in such similar terms during that scene.)

I think this suggestion is the closest to what I have seen, so I am going with it.

I have found that the person that have stated the aforementioned has also posted the following:

I'll add that, upon further consideration, I think that "the forgettable god" is supposed to be an embodied combination of all of the different Mercurys: the planet Mercury, the element Mercury, and the Hindi and Roman gods Mercury (who are virtually identical), with a strong leaning toward the Hindi Mercury (which is why Wednesday can bribe him with soma, and why he has dark hair and dark eyes).

The only Mercury that isn't consolidated into the forgettable god, though, is Wednesday. Odin is the Nordic equivalent of Mercury. (For more connections, as I noted, the Hindi word for Wednesday is derived from Budha's name; furthermore, the French word for Wednesday is Mercredi, which comes from the word ... well, I'm sure you can figure it out.)

Wednesday (Odin) is the only Mercury who isn't a god of commerce, which is I think the reason why he is separate from the other Mercury. He is, however, like all the other Mercurys a dispenser and dissolver of knowledge, and by the end of the book you realize that Wednesday is just as hidden and invisible as the forgotten god (both metaphorically, because his true motives are hidden and he's constantly conning people by hiding his true identity under a facade, and physically, because at the end he's just a disembodied voice).

One of the dead giveaways that the forgettable god is Mercury (other than the reference to Soma) is the way that Gaiman describes the interaction between the god and Wednesday during the bar scene - he writes them as warped mirror images of each other. Wednesday is "the man in the light grey suit" and Mercury is "the man in the charcoal (dark grey) suit." Wednesday drinks Jack Daniels, a Tennessee Straight Whiskey (legally defined as bourbon - disputed by distillers as it's own thing), and Mercury drinks Laphroaig, a scotch whiskey. And, of course, there's Why Can't He Be You. I don't think the lyrics are relevant, but I think the song title is - I think it's a distinct reference to the fact that Wednesday should "be" Mercury but isn't.

More important bits to note:

Because the planet Mercury is practically impossible to see with the human eye, the Egyptian name for Mercury is Sbg, 'unknown.'

The conception of Budha caused a war of the gods according to to Hindu mythology.

Budha's consort, Ila, is a lunar goddess. Since Laura's last name is Moon, we can assume that Shadow's last name is Moon, and because he never knew his father Shadow would have had his mother's last name, making his mother a Moon. His mother is described as being dark-haired and dark-eyed, which roughly indicates that his mother looked ethnically like the "forgotten god."

  • I think I'll go with you too. Only thing not consistent with what I tried to verify is that Soma/Chandra (Moon) the father of Budha (Mercury) is the most beautiful of the Navagrahas (Nine Planets). For this reasons one of the wife of Brihaspati (Jupiter), Taraka/Tara, fell for Soma and gave birth to Budha. And the significance of the drink "Soma" and Budha. – KenSuvy Sep 11 '11 at 17:21
  • Shadow's last name is indeed moon (Balder Moon) it is revealed in Fragile Things ! (and I'll sooo go with that explanation) – user17568 Sep 24 '13 at 19:00
  • If the "forgettable god" truly is Mercury and Odin is connected to Mercury then it would explain why Shadow is able to get the flowers to Sam in the end of the book. No one really noticed him in that scene just like the "forgettable god" wasn't noticed. – user17869 Oct 9 '13 at 22:40
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I'm a bit late to this party but let me give this a whirl. When I first read American Gods - some years ago now - I was under the impression that the Forgotten God was Pluto/Hades, god of the underworld.Why do I think this? Well - and please do feel free to correct me - I seem to recall that this god seemed to be wealthy. This fits with the name Pluto - which means "rich", "Mr. Moneybags." Since gold, silver, other metals and gems are dug up from the earth - the underworld - they come from Pluto's realm, so he's the richest of the gods. As for the forgetful part, well, I think the name Hades means "The Unseen" - people couldn't retain a memory of interacting with him. Wasn't he also kind of given the mien of a crime boss - a play on the word "underworld". That's my guess.

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    This seems like a good explanation. Pluto/Hades is indeed associated with wealth, and the underworld has the river Lethe, which causes forgetfulness. Add to that the fact that most modern cultures tend to avoid discussions of death or what happens afterwards and I could easily see a traditional god of death becoming "forgotten". – Thunderforge Dec 29 '17 at 2:04
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KHW is correct in that Gaiman is currently not telling, but he one day might. From his blog:

As for withholding information... before the Internet, I'd tell anyone anything they wanted to know. ("Who's the missing member of the Endless?" "Destruction." "Oh.") After the Internet, I would try and avoid answering some direct questions because it might spoil things for people. "Why did Delight become Delirium?" "Who's the Forgotten God?" -- they're questions I would happily have answered for anyone who asked at a signing 20 years ago, because it wouldn't have gone any further, not in any way that mattered. Not any longer, because one day I may tell those stories. (If I knew for sure I wouldn't tell them, then I'd happily answer people now.)

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I Think its the "invisible hand" concept in econmics. I know that thats not exactly a forgottnen god but the theory is from 1700. And Adam Smith was from Scotland hence lapfroigh and peat.

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I read the book a few months ago but I think I remember the forgettable god being the dwarf god that was about 6 feet tall that met Shadow after Wednesday died. He was the one that said that his "people" were ready to fight beside Anansi and Cheznobog in the battle to come and said that one of his people could stand Wednesday's vigil and survive. I'm pretty sure that this is the guy you are thinking of.

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    Sorry, but I think you're confused. There is a scene (~page 110) where the forgettable god as well as the King Alvis (of the Dwarves) are shoved in a car together with Shadow. There's a little bit of play there where Shadow keeps asking and forgetting the unknown god's name. Similarly, it describes how he keeps thinking Alvis' name is actually Elvis. This is similar to later in the book where he keeps hearing Whiskey Jack in place of a real name. – Broklynite Sep 19 '14 at 3:15
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I thought the god was the god of randomness. Any time Shadow tried to impose order on this god (like making out/remembering his features), the effort fails. The aspect of randomness would naturally make his habitat Vegas, whose entire existence is built on chance, albeit in the house's favor.

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    Can you show any references to support your answer? – Edlothiad Apr 7 '17 at 15:50
  • Do you mean like the Lady from Discworld, the god who you shouldn't name or she will leave you? – b_jonas May 20 '17 at 20:58

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