The Old Gods in American Gods have roots in the past and in mythology. While we might know the ins and outs of the New Gods, like Media and Technical Boy, there’s probably a lot we can still learn about their predecessors. For those of you hoping to get a better understanding of these characters before you continue on with American Gods, we have you covered. Get to know the history that inspires the characters in our American Gods History Primer series.
Mr. Wednesday, a.k.a. Odin, a.k.a Woden
In the Series
Mr. Wednesday–or, you know, ODIN (no big deal)–has established himself as the Old God in charge of gathering the troops and defeating the New Gods. While the majority of the Old Gods are happy to continue their paths, barely staying on the right side of survival, Wednesday wants to take action. He’s not a man of apathy. He’s taking care of business by starting a war for belief. After all, with the New Gods out of the picture, think about how the Old Gods can move in. We saw a taste of what Wednesday has in mind for the future when he encouraged Easter to embrace her power.
He comes across as a hard-ass, but Wednesday knows presentation is everything. He carries himself as though he’s the wisest being on the planet. His confident manner makes you trust him. It’s certainly worked on Shadow. We’ve watched Wednesday use his charms and rhetoric to grow the numbers, and we’ve seen him take cutthroat measures to stop those who oppose him (RIP Vulcan).
Mr. Wednesday is a natural leader… and a talented manipulator. Of course he’s Odin.
Clues about Mr. Wednesday’s Old God identity have been planted throughout the series. As he told Shadow, Wednesday was his day, and indeed, it was once known as the day of Woden. And then there was the whole bit with him having raven spies. And his fake eye. Remember when Media and Mr. World tried to bring Wednesday to their side? They showed him the brand they could make of him with ODIN guidance satellite images.
As one of the most well-known gods in Norse and Germanic mythology, Odin was powerful and took on more than a few roles. The All-Father, the Wanderer, the god of wisdom, the god of war, King of the Gods, the god of poetry–all of these titles apply to Odin. It’s easy to see how many of Wednesday’s traits relate to these descriptions. To further connect him to Wednesday: Odin often appears as an older man with one eye (he gave up one of his eyes to take a drink from the Well of Wisdom) and has two ravens and two wolves as his companions and cohorts.
Odin created the Norse pantheon, the world, and man and woman. The creation didn’t come about because of a benevolent spread of light, which is the usual way I imagine creation. Odin killed Ymir, a primordial giant, and went from there. Odin began from a place of war. He has appeared in numerous recorded histories from the Viking Age and is prominent in Old Norse texts.
One particular trait about Odin I think is good to keep in mind with Wednesday, is that as a war god, he’s more concerned with having a battle than negotiating an amicable outcome. He wants things to get dirty. He can likely glean sustenance from the frenzy of a fight.
In Other Stories
Odin regularly appears in pop culture. A couple of notable examples include Gandalf the Grey–the J.R.R. Tolkien‘s character was partially inspired by Odin the Wanderer–and the Odin of Marvel Comics. You’ll find an image of Anthony Hopkins as Odin higher than you might think in search results.
Images: Starz, Disney/Marvel