Page 76. " He sang of the nine days that the all-father hung from the world tree "

In the story of Runatal, found in the Havamal, Odin is described as sacrificing himself to himself by hanging from the world tree Yggdrasil.

Pierced by his own spear, he remained there for nine days and nights so that he would learn power over the nine worlds. In Norse magical practices, there are nine realms of existence. Odin also learns nine (later eighteen) magical songs and eighteen magical runes.



Page 76. " who had been on a ship that had sailed through the pillars of Hercules "

The pillars of Hercules in the ancient world marked the Strait of Gilbraltar.


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Page 77. " the four men making him an eight-legged horse "

In Norse mythology, Odin rides an eight-legged horse called Sleipnir, the offspring of Loki and Svaoilfari.

It is often described as the best of all horses.



Page 77. " when two huge ravens landed upon the scraeling's corpse "

A clear reference to Hugninn and Muninn.

Odin is sometimes called the 'Raven god' due to his connection with the birds.


Page 78. " The longboat, upside down and pulled high on the shingle, they also burned "

Page 78. " Leif the Fortunate, son of Erik the Red, rediscovered that land, which he would call Vineland. "

Lief Ericson is regarded as the first European to land in North America. He was the son of Erik Thorvaldsson, who founded the first Nordic settlement in Greenland.

Vineland is thought to be on the northern tip of the island of Newfoundland.


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Page 78. " Tyr, one-handed "
Public DomainTyr

 Tyr is sometimes named as son of Odin. He is the god of single combat, victory and heroic glory.

He lost his right hand to the wolf Fenrir, who was angered at being bound by the gods in a futile attempt to prevent Ragnarok, the end of the world.




Page 79. " Let the Midnight Special Shine its light on me "

A traditional folk song, The Midnight Special is believed to have come from prisoners in the American South.

It has been covered by many artists.

Page 79. " Friday's a free day. A woman's day. "

The word Friday means 'day of Frige' in Old English. Frige, also written Frijjo, is both the Aesir goddess Frigg and the Vanir goddess Freyja. They share much in common, but there is disagreement as to whether the two are the same goddess, or two separate goddesses, or even two parts of a trinity of goddesses, the third being Hnoss or Iounn.  Frigg is the consort of Odin.

The Latin for Friday equates to 'Day of Venus'. Venus is the Roman version of the goddess Aphrodite. In astrology, Friday is associated with the planet Venus.

Page 80. " 'Didn't loose it,' he said. "

 Another pointer to Wednesday's true identity: in Norse myth, Odin sacrifices one of his eyes to drink from Mimir's well. The well is located beneath one of the roots of Yggdrasil (where Mimir lives) and contains much wisdom.

Page 81. " Minnesota, Wisconsin, all around there, is it has the kind of women I liked when I was younger. "

Wednesday goes on to describe the women as being 'pale skinned and blue eyed, hair so fair it's almost white, wine-coloured lips...' 

In Minnesota, most of the residents are of Nordic and German descent. Wisconsin has a history of large numbers of German and Scandinavian immigrants, the kind of people who would remind Odin of his roots, that region of Europe where his power base was at its strongest.

Page 81. " 'Charms can be learnt,' said Wednesday. "

A nod to his self sacrifice on Yggdrasil in order to learn, amongst other things, the eighteen magical charms.

Page 82. " Bob Dylan sang about a hard rain that was going to fall, "

 A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall written in 1962 by Bob Dylan.

Page 83. " may I introduce you to the lovely Zorya Vechernyaya "

In Slavic mythology, Zorya Vechernyaya is one of three guardian goddesses who serve the sun god Dazbog.  They are also the guardians of Simargl, the doomsday hound.

She is the Evening Star: she closes the palace gates at dusk when the sun god has returned, and is associated with protection and exorcism.

Page 84. " Zorya Utrennyaya is awake, but our other sister is still asleep, "

Zorya Utrennyaya is the Morning Star, she opens the palace gates every morning for the sun god to pass through on his chariot.

She is often depicted as a warrior goddess. People would pray to her for protection against death. She is associated with horses, protection and exorcism.

Page 84. " 'Lots of people do fortune-telling. I dabble in it myself.' "

Odin has many attributes, including magic and prophecy.


Page 84. " What do you want, Grimnir? "

Grimnir is one of Odin's many names. He uses it specifically in the Grimnismal, which tells of the god disguising himself and using this name to avoid revealing his true identity.

Page 85. " meet Mr Czernobog "

In Slavic myth, Czernobog is a god of death, night and chaos. His name translates to the 'Black God.' 

Page 87. " And our sister, Zorya Polunochnaya, she can tell no lies at all "

Zorya Polunochnyaya is the Midnight Star. She holds the dying sun in her arms all night until he is reborn in the morning. She is associated with magic, death and rebirth.

Page 88. " You want my brother, not me. And he's gone. "

Czernobog is referring to Bielebog, the Slavic god of light and the sun. He is the polar opposite of Czernobog. Or, as they are portrayed in the novel, the two are different aspects of the same being.

Page 89. " You shall play checkers with me "

Checkers is a board game between two people. The pieces are traditionally made of wood and consist of a darker colour and a lighter colour.


Page 90. " You want to make a bet. Okay. If I win, you come with us. "

Death playing chess
GNU Free Documentation LicenseDeath playing chess - Credit: Håkan Svensson (Xauxa)
Shadow and Czernobog are following in the rich footsteps of folkloric tradition here, the challenge or game of wits.  Each wants something from the other enough to enter into a bargain.

This scene can be compared to tales of men playing chess with Death in exchange for their lives.


Page 94. " The borscht was vinegary, and tasted like pickled beets. "


 Borscht is a beetroot soup, Ukrainian in origin. It is popular throughout Eastern and Central European countries.

Recipe for Borscht


Page 97. " 'Ursa Major,' he said. 'The Great Bear.' "

The constellation Ursa Major is viewable all year round in most of the northern hemisphere. It is also know as 'the big dipper' and 'the plough.'

Zorya Polunochnaya knows it by a different name though. She calls it 'Odin's Wain.'

Page 98. " and he found the three stars of Orion's belt, which allowed him to see Orion "

The name of the constellation Orion comes from Greek mythology. Orion was a hunter who foolishly threatened to kill every beast on earth. Mother Earth intervened, sending a giant scorpion to kill him. Upon his death, Zeus raised him into the heavens with the scorpion that destroyed him.

Page 99. " not a god, but like a god, a bad thing, chained up in those stars "

Zorya Polunochnaya is describing the doomsday hound, Simgarl.

In Slavic myth, Simgarl is chained to the north star Polaris. If he breaks free he will devour the constellation 'Ursa Minor', destroying the universe in the process. 'If it escapes, it will eat the whole of everything,' Zorya Polunochynaya tells Shadow. This is why she and her sisters sleep in shifts, watching the skies to see that the hound does not break free.