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|“||So, I got job on killing floor as a knocker. It was a good job. Yeah, skilled labor. A cow comes up the ramp. Boom, boom, boom. And you take a sledge hammer, and - Boop! You knock the cow dead. It takes strength. It takes strength, but not only strength. It takes talent, because it's a craft. You have to do it right, or the cow gets angry. And angry meat taste bad. Yeah, you need arms to break the skull, but that's not the goal. The goal is to crush the brain inside the skull, and quick, before the pain can travel from outside the brain to the inside, so the brain never knows the brain is crushing. To give a good death is art.||”|
Czernobog is one of the Old Gods, and comes from Slavic mythology.
Significance in series Edit
Shadow heads for the bathroom just as Czernobog returns home. He is not pleased to see Wednesday and throws a lamp at him. Wednesday offers him the cigarettes and herb Havarti but Czernobog still wants him to leave. Zorya Vechernyaya tells Czernobog she already invited them to dinner.
Czernobog becomes upset with Wednesday and raising his voice. Zorya Utrennyaya hurries in to shush him so he doesn't wake up Zorya Polunochnaya. Wednesday is trying to get Czernobog to come to the meeting because everyone else will be there and will think Czernobog is weak if he doesn't show. Czernobog tells Wednesday he wants his brother, Bielebog, not him.
They sit down to a terrible dinner of tough meat and soft potatoes, which Wednesday enthusiastically enjoys. Czernobog asks Shadow if he is Black. Where he is from, everyone is the same color so everyone fights over shades. Bielebog has light hair where Czernobog has black hair so everyone thought Bielebog was the good one and it turned Czernobog into the bad one. They are both gray now so there is no longer a way to tell who is light and who is dark.
Czernobog shares how they first arrived in New York and it wasn't so bad but then they came to Chicago and it's not so great. He had to get a job in the slaughterhouse and became a "knocker" on the killing floor. Zorya Vechernyaya opposes him telling cow killing stories at dinner but he continues anyway. He explains how it takes strength and skill to artfully kill a cow properly with a sledgehammer. If not done properly, the cow becomes angry and angry meat tastes bad. He complains about the ease of the bolt gun that makes it so anyone can kill cows now. He asks Shadow if he plays checkers and invites him to a checkers game after dinner and Shadow agrees.
After dinner, Czernobog sets up the checkers board, playing black and they begin their game. Czernobog asks if Shadow wants to see his killing hammer and retrieves it from over the mantle. He explains how blood feeds the hammer, giving it shine, with sunrise blood being the best. Now, his hammer is red with rust but Shadow sees blood pouring off it from the 10,000 kills Czernobog made. They continue playing checkers and Czernobog offers to make a wager. If he loses, then he will go with Shadow and Wednesday to meet with the others. If he wins, then he gets to hit Shadow in the middle of the forehead with his hammer.
Wednesday advises against it, but tells Shadow it's his decision if he wants to make the wager. Shadow considers all the crazy things he has seen in the last few days and what is real and what is not. He agrees to Czernobog's wager and they keep playing checkers. Czernobog starts singing an old song about bitter coffee and a spoon that makes it sweet as he gets more and more of Shadow's pieces off the board. Shadow loses the game and Czernobog declares that at sunrise, Shadow will willingly go down on his knees for him to knock his brains out and asks "Is good?". Shadow responds "Is good."
Shadow wakes up on the couch in Czernobog's apartment. He goes into Czernobog's room and tries to convince Czernobog to play one more game of checkers with him. He points out that Czernobog is old and weaker and he might need two hits on the head in order to successfully kill Shadow. If Shadow wins, then Czernobog has to go with him and Mr. Wednesday and Czernobog still gets his one hammer hit after they're done. If Czernobog wins, he gets two swings at sunrise. Czernobog agrees to the terms and they start playing checkers. Shadow wins the checkers game against Czernobog and Czernobog agrees to go with Wednesday to Wisconsin then he will kill Shadow.
Physical appearance Edit
Czernobog is described as old with a gray face, narrow smile, and yellow teeth and fingers.
Notes and trivia Edit
- Czernobog's character is based on a 12th century West Slavic deity. His name translated from proto-slavic means "Black God."
- Czernobog sings an "old" song about stirring coffee while he's playing checkers with Shadow in "The Secret of Spoons." Michael Green came up with the lyrics while reminiscing about a favorite aunt who had passed away, leaving him a sugar bowl and spoon.
|“||My love made the sweetest coffee / With no sugar at all / She only stirred with her spoon and it was done / Now my drink is bitter / The secret of spoons forgotten / When my voice breaks on this song / Remember old love gone / And drink bitter coffee||”|
–Czernobog, "The Secret of Spoons"
|“||If I win, I get to knock your brains out. With the sledgehammer. First you go down on your knees. Then I hit you a blow with it, so you don't get up again.||”|
Czernobog is one of the Old Gods, and comes from Slavic mythology. He claims often that he misses his brother, Bielebog, but at some point he states that he is not sure if both are actually the same person.
Significance in narrative Edit
Mr. Wednesday and Shadow arrive at an apartment in Chicago where Czernobog answers the door. Zorya Utrennyaya sends them into the sitting room while she gets them coffee. Czernobog begins relating his past job in the meat business and how he was a "knocker" on the kill floor, taking a sledgehammer to knock the cows dead before slitting their throats and draining their blood. Zorya Utrennyaya returns with their coffee and Shadow excuses himself to the bathroom.
When he returns, Czernobog is angry with Mr. Wednesday for trying to get him to come along with them. Mr. Wednesday says Czernobog should do it for his brother, Bielebog. Czernobog tells Shadow about his brother and how Czernobog was the dark-haired, bad one while Bielebog was the blonde-haired, good one. Czernobog then tells Shadow to play him a game of Checkers.
They start playing checkers and Czernobog wagers Shadow that if he wins, he gets to hit Shadow on the head with a sledgehammer like he used to do to the cows. If Shadow wins, then Czernobog has to come with them on their trip. Czernobog wins the game and Shadow challenges him to a rematch, saying if Czernobog wins again, it gives him a second chance to hit Shadow over the head because he will need it since he is no longer as young and strong as he once was. Shadow wins the second game so Czernobog agrees to go with them and will hit Shadow in the head after everything is over.
Shadow and Wednesday encounter Czernobog at the House on the Rock in The Mikado room where he is seated on a bench. Czernobog proceeds with them down several corridors and through various rooms and attractions before arriving at a pizzaria-cafeteria where Mr. Nancy is seated. Wednesday leaves for the restroom while Shadow is introduced to Mr. Nancy. Once Wednesday returns, they set off again through the House on the Rock, finally reaching the Carousel Room.
The carousel goes round and round without stopping because it is meant to be admired, not ridden. Wednesday then asks Shadow to help them onto the platform where he, Czernobog, and Mr. Nancy jump on board the carousel. Shadow joins them, feeling more uneasy breaking the rules at the carousel than he did robbing the bank that morning.
Once on the carousel, each of the men select a mount with Wednesday picking a golden wolf, Czernobog choosing an armored centaur, and Nancy climbing on a roaring lion. Shadow eventually selects a tiger with an eagle's head to ride. The four men laugh and enjoy their ride on the carousel as the Blue Danube waltz plays and the lights glistened. Then, the lights go out and Shadow sees the gods.
When the lights go out on the carousel at the House on the Rock, the only illumination is from starlight as the eagle-headed tiger beneath Shadow seemed to come to life. He is able to see multiple dimensions with Mr. Nancy appearing to him in all his various forms. The creatures they rode trotted them to a wooden hall on a hill. Czernobog tells Shadow that none of it is really happening and it's all in his head. Shadow also sees Czernobog in his various forms as Wednesday steers his giant wolf over to Shadow's side and tells him his various names, leading Shadow to ask if Wednesday is Odin, which Wednesday confirms.
They enter Valaskjálf, Odin's old hall, as Mr. Nancy explains to Shadow they're in Wednesday's mind. Wednesday is upset that there aren't as many people waiting for them in the hall as he expected. Mr. Nancy steps up as the "warm-up" man and tells the crowd of Old Gods a story about how he stole Tiger's balls and blamed it on Old Monkey, which is why to this day, Tiger chases monkeys. Wednesday next stands before the people gathered. He gives them a speech about how the New Gods are growing in America and it is now time for the Old Gods to act. Mama-ji gets into an argument with Wednesday, saying they only have to wait for the New Gods to die out like the ones of the past. Wednesday tells them all they have already lost everything and he is offering them the chance to take something back. The fire burns out and the meeting ends.
After Shadow is arrested and placed in the Lakeside jail, Chief Mulligan and Officer Bute sign him over for transfer to two deputies from Lafayette County and Shadow is put into the backseat of a black town car. As they drive away, the deputies reveal themselves to be Mr. Nancy and Czernobog.
Czernobog and Mr. Nancy take Shadow to Minneapolis where they meet up with Alviss and change from the black town car to a VW bus. Alviss expresses his sympathy to Shadow and asks if the "vigil" falls on him, which Czernobog says he will not have to do.
Eventually they stop for food and gas. Mr. Nancy receives a phone call from the New Gods telling them to meet in the Center of America, neutral territory for both the Old Gods and New Gods, so they can give them back Mr. Wednesday's body.
They drive toward Lebanon, KS and the Center of America, stopping in Humansville, MO and visit a supermarket where they encounter Gwyndion who promises Mr. Nancy he'll "be there." They continue driving before another brief stop outside Cherryvale, KS. Czernobog exits the vehicle and walks to the center of a meadow where he had once been worshiped and he feasts on its residual power, rejuvenating himself.
They reach the Center of America that evening and park at the one-story motel. There is a chauffeur and a female newscaster standing outside. Media introduces herself and leads them inside where Technical Boy is waiting with Mr. Town. Mr. Town hands room keys to Mr. Nancy who passes them out to Shadow and Czernobog. Later that evening, the chauffeur has brought everyone McDonald's from Nebraska. As they eat dinner, Shadow asks when they can take Mr. Wednesday's body and is told that according to the rules, they have to wait until midnight.
It's soon close to midnight so they head to Room Five, where Wednesday's body is laid out in the middle. Town, Media, Mr. Nancy, Czernobog, and Technical Boy soon join them. Loki calls the gathering to order and asks if anyone would like to say something. Mr. Town passes, Czernobog warns that this is the start of war, and Technical Boy starts to recite a poem buy can't remember the rest of it. Shadow says that the whole situation is "pitiful" because half the people there had a hand in killing him but Shadow is still working for Wednesday. Media makes a few pithy comments about life and death before Mr. Nancy finishes off with another warning that the New Gods would pay for what they had done.
The New Gods leave and they wrap Wednesday up in sheets. Shadow carries him out to their bus, remembering his promise to Wednesday when he started working for him. Mr. Town approaches him and hands him Wednesday's glass eye, telling him that Mr. World wanted Shadow to have it. Mr. Nancy takes the wheel and they leave the Center of America, heading east.
When they reach Princeton, MO, Nancy asks Shadow where they can drop him off. Against their protests, Shadow insists that he is staying with Wednesday's body and will hold the vigil even after Czernobog and Mr. Nancy both warn him it will kill him. Even though Shadow hopes he will survive, he is willing to die because then maybe he'll finally have lived.
They drive Wednesday's body to the ASH farm in Virginia. A perfectly symmetrical silver-gray tree rises up higher than the farmhouse, identical to Wednesday's silver tie pin. There are three women of descending heights by the tree who Shadow mistakes at first for the Zorya Sisters. The tallest sister removes Wednesday's body from the bus and the three sisters place his body underneath the tree before approaching Shadow. They ask if he's the one who will mourn and hold vigil for the all-father and Shadow nods. Nancy tries again to dissuade him but Shadow holds firm. Czernobog says that Shadow needs to survive the vigil for him because he still gets to hit him on the head.
After spending the night in a Motel 6, Shadow arrives in Chicago the next morning and is greeted at the brownstone by Zorya Utrennyaya who promptly tries to get him to leave again, telling him that he doesn't want to see Czernobog. They are in the middle of spring cleaning and Shadow helps Zorya Vechernyaya turn a mattress in Bielebog's room. They keep trying to get Shadow to leave but he sits and waits for Czernobog to come back.
Czernobog returns and also tries to get Shadow to come back tomorrow when Bielebog will return but eventually agrees to swing his hammer at Shadow's head as promised. He lightly taps Shadow's forehead with the hammer, saying there is blood but also gratitude and that it's been a long, long winter.
Physical appearance Edit
|“||Shadow saw a gray-haired old East-European immigrant, with a shabby raincoat and one iron-colored tooth, true. But he also saw a squat black thing, darker than the darkness that surrounded them, its eyes two burning coals; and he also saw a prince with long flowing black hair, and long black moustaches, blood on his hands and his face, riding, naked but for a bear-skin over his shoulder, on a creature half-man, half-beast, his face and torso blue-tattooed with swirls and spirals.||”|
|— Chapter Seven|
Czernobog is described as old with a gray face, narrow smile, and yellow teeth and fingers.
"The man in the dusty bathrobe was short, with iron-gray hair and craggy features. He wore gray pinstripe pants, shiny from age, and slippers. He held an unfiltered cigarette with square tipped fingers, sucking the tip while keeping it cupped in his fist - like a convict, thought Shadow, or a soldier."
Notes and trivia Edit
- Czernobog's character is based on a 12th century West Slavic deity.
- The site outside Cherryvale, Kansas that Czernobog draws power from in Chapter Fourteen is a reference to the Bloody Benders, a family of serial killers who were active from 1871 to 1873 and killed at least a dozen travelers.