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DRIBBLING WITH GODS: RE-AVATARIZATION AND ASSIMILATION OF DIVINE FIGURES IN NEIL GAIMAN’S AMERICAN GODS AND KEVIN HEARNE’S IRON DRUID CHRONICLES

Journal: IMPACT : International Journal of Research in Humanities, Arts and Literature ( IMPACT : IJRHAL ) (Vol.4, No. 4)

Publication Date:

Authors : ;

Page : 39-54

Keywords : Gods; Popular Culture; Migration; Cultural Appropriation;

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Abstract

When people migrate from one land to another, they take with them their culture, their traditions and their religion, which demarcates them as the ‘other’ and at the same time is the marker of their identity. But what happens to the Gods in the foreign land? Do they transmute from spiritual and religious figures to cultural symbols and then finally merges into popular culture to their death and eventual ‘re-avatarization’? I use the term ‘re-avatarization’ to signify the reimagination of ancient accepted views of certain ideas, in this case, the idea of Gods with all its associated power and omniscience to something created out of human imagination more connected to current times. Neil Gaiman’s American Gods talks about the migration of these Gods with their people into the ‘new land’ America where they either became lost as their followers dwindled and lost belief, or became transmuted into other avatars due to their re-imagination by the people. Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series introduces many such Gods, Gods lost from memory and ones still remembered, from all over the world. Terry Pratchett in his Discworld series talks about the power of belief which sustains and gives power to certain entities to be Gods. What I am interested is in the re-imagination of Gods from powerful religious and symbolic figures to popular icons through their dissemination in literature, notably fantasy fiction. Gaiman and Hearne have taken Gods from various cultures and pantheons and in this article I would like to map their transmutation and re-imagination in popular culture. As an offshoot, I would also like to analyse this similar transformation with regard to the Hindu Gods from India. It seems to me that with Hinduism, the philosophical, the spiritual and the didactic aspect has been popular for some time with our global export of so called “Indian spirituality” at the hands of myriad spiritual gurus. But with regard to Hindu Gods, there are different politics at play. The portrayal of Hindu Gods in Gaiman and Hearne’s books for instance is fascinating as it gives off vibes of the ‘Exotic Orient’ from the point of view of the ‘West’. There are many subtle variations in their depiction which I would like to ponder over with all its resultant implications and politics. I believe that through this study we can get an idea of subtle cultural processes at work that assimilates elements of one culture into another while preserving its sense of the ‘other’ and the ‘exotic’ but sanitizing it to an acceptable level for the dominant host culture. It seems to me that it is important to maintain this duality to attract people to its exotic allure and at the same time to tone down its essential ‘alienness’ so as to not detract the audience. Because of the settings of both Gaiman and Hearne’s books, the US has become the fantastical grounds where I will be analysing this process of assimilation and re-avatarization of various Gods from around the world and from America itself, that is the Native American Gods. What does it all signify? Does it indicate the elevation of religious figures and the importance of religionor does it signify a kind of death by their transmutation into pop icons? These are few of the questions that I would like to use as my analytical framework as I seek to interrogate the process of cultural migration over time.

Last modified: 2016-06-06 16:27:16