|“||As the Hindu gods are 'immortal' only in a very particular sense — for they are born and they die — they experience most of the great human dilemmas and often seem to differ from mortals in a few trivial details...and from demons even less. Yet they are regarded by the Hindus as a class of beings by definition totally different from any other; they are symbols in a way that no human being, however 'archetypal' his life story, can ever be. They are actors playing parts that are real only for us; they are the masks behind which we see our own faces.||”|
–Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty, Introduction, HINDU MYTHS (Penguin Books, 1975)
After escaping his kidnappers with Laura's help, Shadow walks south along an unmarked road, guessing that he is in southern Wisconsin. He avoids passing cars and hides in the forest from helicopters so as not to get blamed for the deaths on the train. While in the forest, Shadow finds a large raven eating a dead fawn and assumes this is one of Odin's ravens. The raven tells Shadow to find Jacquel, a friend, in Cairo, Egypt and instructs him to follow the Mississippi south. The raven leads Shadow to a back road where he has dinner at Culver's Frozen Custard Butterburgers. At the gas station next door, he meets Mattie, a young woman whose brother sells cheap, badly worn cars ("Pee-Oh-Esses"). Mattie shows Shadow that Cairo is a city in Illinois, in an area called Little Egypt that also has a Thebes. With his cash from the bank robbery, Shadow buys a 1983 Chevy Nova and begins driving south.
After some time, Shadow gets tired and falls asleep in the back seat of his car. He dreams of the buffalo-headed man who asks Shadow where he is going and why. Shadow answers that he is going to Cairo because Wednesday told him to. Shadow then asks Buffalo-man if they are really gods, but he is woken up by tapping before he can answer.
Shadow meets Sam, who is knocking on his window. She is hitchhiking from Madison, WI to El Paso, IL and takes a ride from Shadow after making sure he isn't drunk. They stop for breakfast in Peru, Illinois where Shadow reads in the newspaper that crows in record numbers are infesting the area.
After leaving the restaurant, Shadow and Sam discuss Herodotus and myths. Shadow tells her that he believes in ancient times people actually did see gods around, while Sam believes that all myths are simply illusions caused by the brain. Sam tells Shadow a myth about Odin. He is a Norse god and a Viking ship crew owed him their king as a sacrifice. They decided to fake the sacrifice but Odin still made sure it succeeded. Sam asserts that "white people have some fucked up gods," and then explains that she is not white but half-Cherokee.
After dropping Sam off at her aunt's house in El Paso, IL, Shadow stops at a Night's Inn and watches I Love Lucy on TV. Lucy begins talking to him, and explains that she is the television god. She invites him to work for her instead, but Shadow turns her down, deciding to stay with Wednesday.
In the morning, Shadow continues driving. He drives through East St. Louis, Red Bud, and Thebes before finally arriving in Cairo. There, he meets a cat, a talking dog, and a man in gold-rimmed spectacles who take him to Ibis and Jacquel Funeral Parlor.
Somewhere in America Edit
Salim is a young Muslim man from Oman who moved to New York city a week ago. He visits offices with a briefcase of trinkets, trying to secure a sale, but seldom sees any success. His brother-in-law, Fuad, secured him his job and a place to stay at the Paramount Hotel. Unfortunately, the sales aren't going well, his money is running out, and Fuad is very unhappy with Salim.
On this day, Salim goes to the office of Panglobal Imports. He arrives a half an hour early and spends all day at the office across from a sick secretary, but Mr. Blanding never has time to see him. At the end of the day, he decides to take a taxi back to the hotel. The taxi driver is a poor, exhausted middle eastern man. When he learns that Salim is from Oman, he says he's been there before, at the city of Ubar (The Lost City of the Towers). Each night, three or four thousand travelers would stop at the city, drinking wine and celebrating, but the city perished two or three thousand years ago.
The taxi driver falls asleep at the wheel, and Salim reaches over to wake him and accidentally knocks off his sunglasses. That's when he sees his eyes: they burn like fire. The man is an ifrit, or a jinn: someone who was born of fire, as opposed to of mud, like men. He says that people don't know who he is here, that they think he can grant wishes, but if he could grant wishes, he wouldn't be a taxi driver. Before getting out, Salim tells the ifrit his room number.
That night, the ifrit comes to his room, and they have sex and sleep cuddling all night. In the morning, Salim finds that all his belongings are gone, and only the ifrit's taxi keys and ID remain. He thus begins his new life as a taxi driver.
Sam tells Shadow a myth about Norse God Odin. The crew of a becalmed Viking ship ask Odin for a wind to help them to shore in return for a sacrifice. The wind comes, and crew draws lots to see who will be sacrificed, resulting in the king himself. Instead of actually killing the king, the crew decides to sacrifice him in effigy. They tie a calf's intestine around his neck, hang it on a small branch, and poke a reed into his side. However, as soon as they speak Odin's name, the intestine transforms into a rope, the branch becomes a bough, and the reed becomes a spear, killing the king. Sam asserts that "white people have some fucked up gods."
Shadow dreams of the buffalo-headed man near a campfire. The man asks him where he is going, and he says he is going to Cairo. The Buffalo-man asks him why and Shadow says that he has to go where Wednesday instructs him to go because he "drank his mead." Then he asks the Buffalo-man whether they are really gods and the buffalo man responds by asking "What are gods?" Before he has a chance to explain, Shadow wakes up.
Coin tricks Edit
- When he and Sam stop for breakfast, Shadow flips a coin to see who will pay. Sam checks to make sure it's not a double-sided coin before agreeing to the deal, but Shadow fakes the toss, assuring he would be paying.
- In Cairo, Shadow shows the invisible powder trick to an impressed little girl, but the dog who is also watching him comments that he is no Harry Houdini.
- Shadow begins in rural southern Wisconsin, often walking through the forest.
- Shadow has dinner at Culver's Frozen Butterburgers and visits a gas station in rural Wisconsin.
- Shadow drives south into Illinois. He describes each town as having a sign stating their minuscule population and something to be proud of; in each case, it is a child or teenager runner-up or semifinalist in some kind of sport.
- Shadow and Sam stop to eat in Peru, Illinois.
- Shadow drops Sam off at her aunt's house in El Paso, Illinois.
- After dropping off Sam, but before stopping for the night, Shadow passes through Normal, Bloomington, and Lawndale in Illinois.
- Shadow accidentally drives into East St. Louis, a dangerously decrepit area in the eastern suburbs of St. Louis. There, he passes by semitrucks and warehouses marked "24 HOUR NITE CLUB" and "BEST PEAP SHOW IN TOWN."
- Shadow drives past the Pop-a-Top Lounge, Chester ("Home of Popeye"), Big Muddy River, the Mississippi, and Thebes.
- Shadow sees many yellow tractors parked in a field and wonders if that's where tractors go to die.
- Shadow finishes his drive in Cairo, Illinois, which is located in Little Egypt.
Notes and Trivia Edit
- Shadow meets one of Odin's ravens in the forest, although he does not know whether it's Huginn or Muninn, Memory or Thought.
- When the raven leads him away, Shadow asks "Do you want me to follow you, or did Timmy fall down a well again", referring to the classic TV show Lassie.
- Shadow also asks the raven to say "Nevermore", which is a reference to Edgar Allan Poe's classic poem The Raven.
- When falling asleep, Shadow feels like Alice, the protagonist of Lewis Caroll's novel Alice in Wonderland who falls down a very long rabbit hole.
- When Sam says that ancient gods are like today's aliens, Shadow says that he doesn't thing gods gave anal probes, a reference to the 1997 episode of the satiric TV show South Park "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe."
- Herodotus writes about Gods in a very matter-of-fact way, blended in with other historical events, such as battles.
- Sam discusses the psychological theory of bicameralism (though not by that name) when discussing ancient peoples and their gods.
- Shadow watches classic shows M*A*S*H, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and I Love Lucy on TV.