Sustaining the imaginative life : mythology and fantasy in Neil Gaiman’s American gods

Slabbert, Mathilda ; Viljoen, Leonie (2006-12)

CITATION: Slabbert, M. & Viljoen, L. 2006. Sustaining the imaginative life : mythology and fantasy in Neil Gaiman’s American gods. Literator, 27(3): 135-156, doi: 10.4102/lit.v27i3.204.

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This examination of “American gods” argues that mythology is the bedrock for creative and poetic expression in literature that explores and comments on the universality of contemporary human concerns in a world where the spiritual link with the gods has largely been severed and belief systems have mostly lost their meaning. The discussion investigates and identifies the significance of shamanic properties and practices as elements which aid the protagonist Shadow Moon in his journey of self-discovery, and illustrates that the novel’s mythification represents an attempt to “reach below the surface of modern superficialities and reconnect with something old and mysterious within the depths of our soul” (Freke, 1999:6). Gaiman’s unique style in conveying tales that have fashioned the past, the manner in which he evokes the meeting-place of science, fantasy, myth, and magic, and the synthesis he fashions between the ancient and the modern illustrate that the imaginative life is sustained by the incorporation of mythical motifs as creative device. The blending of mythical elements in “American gods” and its restorative project of putting the reader in touch with the profound inner spiritual world validate investigation.

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