|“||Okay. My life, which for three years has been a long way from being the greatest life there has ever been, just took a distinct and sudden turn for the worse. Now there are a few things I need to do. I want to go to Laura's funeral. I want to say goodbye. After that, if you still need me, I want to start at five hundred dollars a week. If we're happy working together, in six months' time you raise it to a thousand a week."||”|
Shadow Moon is the main protagonist and central subject of American Gods. He is a seemingly ordinary man from the Midwest, who is caught up in the war between the Old Gods and the New Gods when Mr. Wednesday hires him as a bodyguard. He is also the main character of the follow-up novella, The Monarch of the Glen, and of a short story, "Black Dog", in Trigger Warning.
Shadow Moon was born in Norway and raised by his mother in America. Shadow was a very small, bookish boy who enjoyed reading but was often bullied by his classmates until he was thirteen. Then he went through a growth spurt, becoming a big, strong man. He joined the swim team and the weightlifting team, and no one expected much of him until he met Laura.
Before the events of the story, Shadow married Laura McCabe and worked with his friend Robbie Burton at a gym called the Muscle Farm. He was arrested and imprisoned for assaulting somebody who stole from him and planned on returning to his wife and job after leaving prison where he met Low Key Lyesmith, Johnnie Larch, and Iceman. When he leaves prison, he discovers that Laura and Robbie had been having an affair and died when Laura was giving Robbie a blowjob while he was driving. On his way back to Eagle Point for Laura's funeral, Shadow meets Mr. Wednesday on a plane. Mr. Wednesday hires Shadow as a reluctant bodyguard, enlisting him in the war against the New Gods.
Significance in narrative
Shadow Moon is released early from prison to attend his wife's funeral. On his journey home, he encounters Mr. Wednesday, who offers him a job. Shadow eventually agrees to be Mr. Wednesday's bodyguard after a night of drinking with him and Mad Sweeney. Shadow attends Laura's funeral and encounters Technical Boy before returning to his motel room and discovering Laura has returned from the grave.
Mr. Wednesday takes Shadow to Chicago where they meet Czernobog and the Zorya sisters. It is Shadow who entices Czernobog to join Mr. Wednesday's cause by betting on a game of checkers. He loses the first game, allowing Czernobog to smash Shadow's head in with a hammer, but wins the second game, meaning Czernobog will have to wait until the war is over.
Shadow and Wednesday rob a bank before leaving Chicago and heading to the House on the Rock in Wisconsin, where they meet up with Czernobog and Mr. Nancy. They meet Backstage with several other Old Gods, including Alviss, Mama-ji, and the Forgettable God. Afterward, Shadow is captured and interrogated by the Spooks, and Laura returns to rescue him. Shadow travels from Wisconsin to Cairo, Illinois, where he is to find Mr. Jacquel. He buys a cheap car and spends several days driving, meeting hitchhiker Sam along the way. Shadow spends time with Mr. Ibis and Mr. Jacquel and their cat at Ibis and Jacquel Funeral Parlor. Mad Sweeney returns and reveals the importance of the coin Shadow gave to Laura.
Shadow and Mr. Wednesday leave Illinois and travel to Wisconsin. Wednesday sends Shadow to the town of Lakeside, under the guise of Mike Ainsel, where Shadow meets Hinzelmann. Shadow gets to know more about the residents and the town of Lakeside, including the Chief of Police, Chad Mulligan, and his next door neighbor, Marguerite Olsen. When a girl goes missing, Shadow aids in the search party for her.
Laura, Samantha Black Crow, and Audrey Burton arrive in Lakeside. Audrey sees Shadow and it leads to his arrest for the murders of the two Spooks that Laura killed. While he is in the Lakeside jail, Media displays footage for Shadow of Mr. Wednesday being executed by Mr. World. Shadow is transported from jail by two deputies who turn out to be Czernobog and Mr. Nancy in disguise.
Shadow travels with Mr. Nancy and Czernobog to the Center of America to retrieve Mr. Wednesday's body from the New Gods. They take Wednesday's body to the World Tree in Virginia, and Shadow climbs onto the tree to hold the nine-day vigil for Wednesday. Horus and Laura come to visit before Shadow eventually dies and goes to the Underworld. Zorya Polunochnaya, Bast, and Mr. Ibis acts as his guides as Mr. Jacquel weighs his heart against a feather and allows him to choose his fate. Shadow asks for nothing.
Whiskey Jack retrieves Shadow from the afterlife so Easter and Horus can bring his body back from the dead. Shadow discovers that he was not a bodyguard but a distraction so Wednesday and Loki could pull off their two-man con: the war. This war between the gods would enable Odin and Loki to gain power and strength. Shadow arrives in Rock City to stop the war. He reveals to the gods it was all a con between Mr. Wednesday and Mr. World before freeing Laura from the gold coin's entrapment.
Shadow travels with Mr. Nancy to his home in Florida where they spend a night out singing karaoke. Shadow soon leaves Mr. Nancy because "the ice is melting". Shadow returns to Lakeside to uncover Hinzelmann's centuries old secret, leading to Chad Mulligan shooting and killing Hinzelmann. Shadow checks up on Sam and leaves her flowers before proceeding to Chicago, where he visits the Zoryas and Czernobog to fulfill his end of the checkers game and allow Czernobog to hit him over the head with his hammer. Shadow takes off to Europe and travels around for a while, stopping off in Iceland where he encounters the Old World version of Mr. Wednesday and returns his glass eye to him.
After the events chronicled in American Gods, Shadow travels around Europe, including his birthplace in Norway, then goes to Scotland, where he is tricked into fighting an ancient monster.
In the short story "Black Dog" in Trigger Warning, Shadow spends time in England with a couple and their ghosts.
Various characters question Shadow's race, the ambiguity of which contributes to a later revelation. Gaiman has confirmed that Shadow's mother is black. Shadow is thirty-two years old at the start of the novel. He was "big enough and looked don't-fuck-with-me enough" to keep out of trouble while in prison. Shadow's eyes are described as gray in color.
Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
Notes and trivia
- Baldr is the second son of Odin and is known as "the god of light and purity".
- House on the Rock fortune:
- "Every ending is a new beginning.
Your lucky number is none.
Your lucky color is dead.
Motto: Like father, like son."
- "Every ending is a new beginning.
- He was initially sentenced to six years of prison for beating up Larry Powers and B. J. West (his partners in the robbery) when they wanted to rip him and Laura off. His sentence was later reduced to three years.
- Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab created a perfume oil based on the character of Shadow for their line "American Gods I". It is described as: "Grey oudh and bay rum luminous with amber."
- The Annotated Edition of American Gods reveals that in Neil Gaiman's original draft a divine entity (either Mad Sweeney or Mr. Ibis, maybe Bast) was going to make a prophecy for Shadow, according to which he will die three times. The first was on the world-tree, the second at the bottom of the frozen lake. Neil Gaiman also originally wanted to explore more the meaning of Shadow's name, by bringing up the question (when Shadow hangs on the world-tree) "Whose shadow is he? His own? Or Odin's?".
- When asked about his inspiration for the character of Shadow, Neil Gaiman answered: " If Shadow was inspired by anyone, it was probably my friend Pete, who is huge and strong and picks up sofas and tree trunks and moves them for you, and is incredibly well-read and smart, but people assume he isn’t and isn’t, because he looks like a small giant." 
- Neil Gaiman confirmed on his Tumblr that Shadow, in the novel, is 32 going on 33 at the beginning of the story. 
- Neil Gaiman confirmed that Shadow's ethnicity in the novel was deliberately left ambiguous, while clearly stated to not be "white" or "Caucasian". He bears European, African, and Native American heritages. 
- Neil Gaiman mentioned that Shadow's real name was in the novel American Gods "if you read it carefully" (as opposed to The Monarch of the Glen where it is spelled out). 
|“||"You're Shadow, huh? The asshole who killed Woody and Stone?"
"No" said Shadow. "That was someone else. And I know who you are." He did. He has been inside the man's head. "You're Town. Have you slept with Wood's widow yet?"
Mr. Town fell off his chair.
|“||He was burying himself in the fictional madness of Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, trying to escape the stark reality of his mother's sickness. He sat next to her in the hospital reading when she died from lymphoma. He pretty much stopped reading after that, as "what good were books, if they couldn't protect you from something like that?"||”|