|“||He had stood beside the man as he got into the car, had opened and closed the door for him, and was unable to remember anything about him. He turned around in the driver's seat and looked at him, carefully noting his face, his hair, his clothes, making certain he would know him if he met him again, and turned back to start the car, to find that the man had slipped from his mind. An impression of wealth was left behind, but nothing more.||”|
The Forgettable God, Forgotten God or the Unknown God, is a mysterious Old God that no mortal seems to be able to remember. Left unnamed in the novel, Neil Gaiman never answered who the Forgettable God's exact identity was, wishing to keep it a mystery.
Significance in narrative Edit
When returning from the House on the Rock, Shadow drives some gods to a restaurant. Among them are Mama-Ji, a man he thinks is named Elvis, and the Forgettable God. Shadow, no matter how much he looks at him or talks to him, can't remember what is his appearance, what his voice sounds like or even what he talked about.
Mr. Wednesday visits the Forgettable God in Las Vegas. Shadow still cannot seem to remember anything about the god, including his name. In Vegas, the god follows around briefcases full of cash as Wednesday and Shadow follow him in a taxi. Wednesday corners him in a bar and asks him if he's in the war against the New Gods and the god ultimately says yes for some Soma. Wednesday later explains to Shadow that Soma is like bottled prayers and love for the gods.
Physical appearance Edit
No mortal seems to be able to remember the Forgettable's God appearance. After Shadow met him, he couldn't remember his face, his appearance or the sound of his voice. The narration describes him as a dark-haired and dark-eyed man, clean-shaved and with well-manicured hands. He is seen in Las Vegas wearing a charcoal-gray immaculate suit, and it is mentionned that his face and demeanor are "in every sense, forgettable".
Powers and abilities Edit
The main ability of the Forgettable God is that no mortal seems to remember him in any way. Usually, no one can remember his name, face, appearance or the sound of his voice the second they stop laying their eyes on him. It seems that this ability works in a stronger way on normal human beings, who forget even the God's presence - the workers of the casino's counting room in Chapter Ten completely ignoring the fact that he is in the room with them. Shadow, when driving him in Chapter Six knows he is present in the car and has a conversation with him, but can't remember what the man looks like or what they talked about. Is only left "an impression of wealth". The Forgettable God can use this to his favor, and is able to leave subliminal messages by merely speaking to humans: when they will forget his existence, their subconscious will still remember the advice or order given (such as the waitress in Chapter Ten). It seems this ability also works indirectly - no matter how many times Mr. Wednesday tells Shadow the Forgottable God's name, he keeps forgetting it or being distracted while the name is said. The Forgettable God isn't seen interacting with the other gods in the cars while driving out of the House on the Rock, but he is seen having a full conversation with Mr. Wednesday at Las Vegas. As a result it is unknown is all the gods are immune to his "forgettableness" or if Mr. Wednesday has a special resistence to it, due to owning a charm that allows him to know the name of all the gods.
The Forgettable God is also strongly associated with wealth and money, and seems to have abilities related to these domains: it is mentionned he can "see" and "feel" the flow and movements of money in Las Vegas as a "fine latticework, a three dimensional cat's cradle of light and motion". He is also able to follow these "golden threads" and study the "matrix" in order to determine immediate events in the futur related to money, or where money will go - as a result he could tell a waitress that if she was at a certain place at a certain time she would meet a man who recently won a huge sum of money and was in need of a "mentor", advices and guidance on how to use and spend this money.
Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
Due to this god's identity being kept a mystery, many theories were made about the deity's cultural background - in fact, the Forgettable God may be the biggest mystery of the entire American Gods world. Neil Gaiman, as he explains on his website's FAQ, had planned to reveal the god's identity to the fans, due to the amount of people asking him questions about it, but then he decided not to, after receiving a "heartfelt plea" begging for the mystery of the character to be kept. . Neil Gaiman still reveals some information about the Forgettable God from time to time:
- He explained on Tumblr that the Forgettable God was not the Abrahamic God .
On top of the elements mentionned previously, here are additional traits of the God mentionned in the novel and used in theories:
- As mentionned before, the Forgettable God seems to be strongly associated with money or wealth. On top of his wealth and money-related abilities, he leaves behind a "feeling of wealth", lives in Las Vegas, spends his time in the counting rooms of the casinos (described as sanctuaries and "Holy of Holies", and the narration explains that what he finds "attractive" in the city is the "speed of movement, the way money moves from place to place and hand to hand ; it's a rush for him, a high, and it pulls him like an addict to the street".
- Other elements seems to rather indicate that the Forgettable God is rather linked to the notion of gambling and games - such as how Mr. Wednesday salutes him with an anecdote about a an being robbed at a crooked game of faro, and still playing despite knowng that it is a cheated game.
- He appreciates the "dry cold" of the "desert's winter".
- The Forgettable God drinks Laphroaig (an expensive Scottish whisky) and appreciates the Laphroaig's "marshy" taste, the "body-in-the-bog" quality to it.
- Mr. Wednesday promises the Forgettable God a bottle of Soma in order to get him on board with the war. The Soma is a divine drink in Hindu mythology.
- Mr. Wednesday asks of the Forgettable God to "come in, be there when we need you" and let Mr. Wednesday "take care" of him, treating the Forgettable God almost like a living object or a sentient concept.
- The Forgettable God is looking for a female supernatural entity, presumable a goddess, who according to Mr. Wednesday hasn't been seen or heard of in two hundred years (the novel being released in 1999, it would mean her last appearance must have been somewhere near 1799). Mr. Wednesday says that, if "she" isn't dead, she probably committed suicide.
Here is a list of the theories about the Forgotten God's identity:
- The most basic theory considers that the Forgettable God is Luck itself, the embodiment of its concept ; or similar concepts such as "Chance" or "Fortune". However this theory doesn't use any mythological or religious background.
- Many like to think that the Forgettable God isn't based on any known mythology or legend, assuming that if nobody can remember his name, it is because he is indeed entirely "forgotten". However such a theory opposes directly the idea expressed in the novel that being entirely forgotten is equivalent to a god's death.
- One of the most popular theory is that the Forgettable God is a manifestation of the Greek god Hades, or the Roman god Pluto. Hades was the Greek god and lord of the Underworld. The "forgetfulness" part of the character is explained by two elements related to Hades: the association of the Underworld with forgetting one's memory (the shades, or souls of the dead, often forgot their previous existence due to the river Lethe, whose water erased memory) and the fact that Hades's name (which means "the unseen one" or "the hidden one") was never pronounced out loud, out of fear to attract bad luck or the attention of the Underworld beings. As a result, Hades was called by the alternative name "Plouton", which means "wealthy". Indeed it was believed that Hades was the wealthiest of all the gods - since he reigned over everything located under the earth, he was also god of the gems, of the grains and of the metals. Through time Plouton was associated with Ploutos (in roman Plutus), the blind son of Demeter who embodied wealth. The name "Plouton", latinized as "Pluto", was later used to refer to the Roman lord of the Underworld and Latin equivalent of Hades, Dis Pater (The Wealthy Father), a god of mineral wealth and agricultural fertility. The "she" the Forgettable God looks for may be, as a result, Persephone, the wife and love of Hades (in Roman mythology, Proserpina). Hades was also said to own a magic helmet able to render him invisible, unnoticed even by the oldest and more powerful gods. His like for the "marshy" taste may also be explained by the strong association Greeks and Romans saw between the Underworld and marshes/bogs (seen as entries or rivers of the Underworld).
- Another very popular theory is that the Forgettable God is the Roman god Mercury. Mercury, a god created by the Roman religion to be the equivalent of the Greek Hermes, was the god of commerce and commercial success, as well as trade and financial gain. He was also considered a god of luck, and syncretized with the Celtic god Lugh (who was also a god of commerce and luck). The "she" he is looking for might be the goddess Rosmerta: when Mercury was fused with Lugh and became a very popular god in Gaul, he was given a consort as Rosmerta, a Gallo-Roman divinity of fertility and abundance, usually represented holding a cornucopia. This theory also points out that the scene of the meeting between Mr. Wednesday and the Forgettable God in Las Vegas creates a true parallelism between the two: one is in a light grey suit and drinks a bourbon whiskey, while the other is in a dark grey suit and drinks a scotch whiskey... That, added to the background song "Why Can't He Be You" and the presence of several Elvis look-alike on the television in this scene lead people to believe that it was a reference to how the Romans assimilated the Germanic god Wotan/Nordic god Odin with Mercury. Finally, this theory mentions that several elements of the scene may be references to mercury, the element, also known as quicksilver : the charcoal suit may be a reference to the use of charcoal to contain or absorb mercury ; the Laphroaig's distillation uses peat, mercury being a natural byproduct of peat ; gaseous mercury in used in neons (mentionned several times in the description of Las Vegas) ; and one of the side-effects of mercury poisoning is memory loss.
- The third most popular theory is that the Forgettable God is Kubera, an Hindu mythological figure, either an asura (powerful spirits ennemy of the devas, usually translated as demigods or demons), either a deva (benevolent and powerful spirits, considered the deities and gods of Hinduism), but always king of the yakshas (nature spirits). He was said to be the Lord of Wealth, owner of all the treasures of the world. Kubera was mentionned among the gods brought to America during Odin's speech in Backstage. Being an Hindu god, it makes sense that a deal with him would be done with a bottle of Soma, a divine drink from Hindu mythology. The "she" he is looking for may be his wife, identified either as Bhadra, goddess of the hunt, either as Riddhi, embodiment of prosperity. However, opposed to this theory is the fact that Kubera was noted to have a very specific and noticeable appearance: at best, a plump and pot-bellied dwarf, at worst a deformed beings with three legs, three heads, four arms and broken teeth (Kubera meaning "deformed" or "monstrous").
- Some believe the Forgettable God may be Mammon. Originally a Biblical term for wealth and money found in the New Testament, in the Middle-Ages it became the embodiment of money, thought to be the demon of greed and avarice.
- A theory thinks that the Forgettable God is Agni, a fire god extremely important in the Vedic times of Hindu religion, and who lost his fame in post-Vedic hinduism, becoming a metaphor for all transformative energies. The Vedic texts claim that Agni was the owner of all the riches and wealth in the world, and as an Hindu god he was a reglar consumer of Soma. The "she" he is looking for might by Svaha, Agni's wife, a minor goddess and personnification of oblation. Finally, Agni was considered the "messenger" of the gods in a very specific way - since he embodied the fire, he was seen as the entity allowing all sacrifices to reach the gods. This may explain the instructions Mr. Wednesday gives him to "participate" in the upcoming war. As for the forgetfulness, in Vedic texts Agni was said to be a mysterious god, liking to play hide-and-seek with mortals and gods alike, and always hiding in the most unexpected places. It was also declared that Agni needed a loving and perpetual attention, hence he "vanished" (a reference to how fire, not protect or kept, dies out).
- Some have theorized that the Forgettable God is a reference to the "Acts 17" of the New Testament, in which Paul preaches to the Greek about the Judeo-Christian god, and mentions that he saw inscribed in a Greek temple "To an unknown god". He uses this argument as a proof that the Greeks need a clear and defined religion.
- Another theory claims that the Forgettable God could be Manann mac Lir. Sea god member of the Tuatha dé Danann, he was a warrior and king ruling over the Celtic Otherworld or Blessed Isles, land of delights and abundance. Being an Irish god that also appeared in Scottish and Manx legends, he would have a fondness for bogs and marshes. Associated with merchants and commerce, he was also said to be able to manipulate the "féth fiada", a magical mist or veil the Tuatha dé Danann shrouded themselves in to render their persons and their domains unknown, unnoticeable or invisible to the mortals eye. A legend also mentions that when his wife, Fand, fell in love with the hero Cuchulainn, Manann erased both of their memories (for the love of a mortal and a "fairy" would destroy the fairy for sure).
Notes and trivia Edit
- Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab created for their "American Gods III" line a perfume oil based on the Forgettable God: A faint impression of scent, a memory slipping like water through a sieve.
- On March 2012, Neil Gaiman said on his Tumblr that currently only one person knew about the identity of the Forgotten God, this person being himself, and that he never told the God's identity to anyone.