American Gods

American Gods

The Ash Stick Symbol Icon

At the end of the novel, Mr. World (Loki’s alter ego) orders Mr. Town to cut a stick from the ash tree on which Shadow was sacrificed, planning to throw the stick over the battlefield of the gods and dedicate all the carnage to Odin. The characters themselves see the stick as a symbol, self-consciously referencing that, as Loki says, the symbol is the thing it is supposed to represent. In a world where belief itself is a powerful force that can shape the physical world, symbols, like the ash stick, have the ability to change the world around them as if they were the very thing they represent. Though an ash stick is obviously not as dangerous or strong as a spear, the power of belief is so strong in this novel that a weak stick can become a spear when it is specifically chosen to stand in for that object. That means that, for Loki, the small stick of an ash tree really is a spear, and can do the damage that a spear can do. Any so-called symbolic action taken in the novel, as when Mr. Town pantomimes stabbing Shadow with the ash stick, has real consequences, such that Mr. Town’s fake poke creates a real wound in Shadow’s side. Laura, stealing the stick from Mr. Town, puts this idea to the ultimate test, using the stick to stab Loki in the chest and kill him as the stick literally turns into a spear capable of piercing Loki’s flesh.

On another level, the ash stick also represents Loki and Mr. Wednesday’s plan to double-cross all of the gods and use this battle for their own gain. No one except Loki actually knows what the stick is for, thinking that it is just an ordinary branch. Loki and Wednesday tend to use mundane objects for nefarious purposes, depending on the art of misdirection and false assumptions to keep their true agenda hidden. Their deception comes back to harm them, though, as Laura also uses the stick to further her plan for Shadow and disrupt Loki and Wednesday’s plot. The stick thus symbolizes how Wednesday and Loki hope to trick others to further their own power, but end up themselves the victims of this malicious plan.

The Ash Stick Quotes in American Gods

The American Gods quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Ash Stick. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Mythology, Belief, and Community Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the William Morrow edition of American Gods published in 2013.
Chapter 17 Quotes

When he was opposite Shadow, he paused. "God, I hate you," he said. He wished he could just have taken out a gun and shot him, and he knew that he could not. And then he jabbed the stick in the air toward the hanging man, in a stabbing motion. It was an instinctive gesture, containing all the frustration and rage inside Town. He imagined that he was holding a spear and twisting it into Shadow's guts.

Related Characters: Mr. Town (speaker), Shadow Moon (Baldur)
Related Symbols: The Ash Stick
Page Number: 443
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Chapter 18 Quotes

“It's never a matter of old and new. It's only about patterns. Now. My stick, please."
"Why do you want it?"
"It's a souvenir of this whole sorry mess," said Mr. World. "Don't worry, it's not mistletoe." He flashed a grin. "It symbolizes a spear, and in this sorry world, the symbol is the thing."

Related Characters: Mr. World (Low Key Lyesmith / Loki) (speaker), Laura Moon (speaker), Shadow Moon (Baldur), Mr. Wednesday (Odin)
Related Symbols: The Ash Stick
Page Number: 468
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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The Ash Stick Symbol Timeline in American Gods

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Ash Stick appears in American Gods. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 17
Mythology, Belief, and Community Theme Icon
Life, Death, Desire, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Deception Theme Icon
...he is too old for this nonsense. Mr. World has asked him to cut a stick from this specific tree (the world tree), but gave him strict orders not to turn... (full context)
Mythology, Belief, and Community Theme Icon
Change and Growth Theme Icon
Life, Death, Desire, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Deception Theme Icon
...and Shadow’s bodies and cuts a branch. He fights an instinctual urge to shove the stick into Shadow’s side. Mr. Town climbs back down the tree, imagining that he sees a... (full context)
Mythology, Belief, and Community Theme Icon
Change and Growth Theme Icon
Life, Death, Desire, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Deception Theme Icon
...Mr. World smiles, twisting his scarred lips, and says they have to wait for a stick. (full context)
Mythology, Belief, and Community Theme Icon
Life, Death, Desire, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Deception Theme Icon
Disturbed, and assuming that Mr. World is lying about making such a fuss about a stick, Technical Boy says he doesn’t need to know the truth. Mr. World confesses that he... (full context)
Chapter 18
Life, Death, Desire, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Deception Theme Icon
...City and Mr. Town tells Laura to stay in the car while he delivers a stick to his boss. Laura asks for a hug before he goes in, and Mr. Town... (full context)
Mythology, Belief, and Community Theme Icon
Change and Growth Theme Icon
Life, Death, Desire, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Deception Theme Icon
Laura takes the ash stick from the back of Mr. Town’s car and walks into the network of caverns that... (full context)
Mythology, Belief, and Community Theme Icon
Life, Death, Desire, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Deception Theme Icon
Mr. World asks for his stick, but Laura asks for a cigarette and some answers first. Laura asks why they used... (full context)
Change and Growth Theme Icon
Deception Theme Icon
Laura says she will give Mr. World the stick, turning away from Mr. World to look out the cavern door. Mr. World comes up... (full context)
Mythology, Belief, and Community Theme Icon
Life, Death, Desire, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Deception Theme Icon
Plurality and the Power of the Individual in America Theme Icon
Meanwhile Laura grips the stick tightly and waits for Mr. World to get close enough. Mr. World cautiously comes right... (full context)