Ye Gods!Posted: March 22, 2010
In one of Fafhrd and Mouser’s later stories by Fritz Leiber (I think it was “The Knight and Knave of Swords“), Odin and Loki end up in Newhon because their last worshipers on their home world have died (presumably that was our earth, which Leiber made mention of before as a ‘different’ world than Newhon; although if it was another dimension or just another planet is not made clear if I recall correctly). Weakened by a lack of worshipers, Loki and Odin somehow wander to Newhon where they arrive, barely alive, and are adopted by Fafhrd, the Mouser and their friends. They build up the power of these gods and nurse them back to health because they hope these gods can help save Newhon in an upcoming battle, but after the battle Loki and Odin try to betray them for more power. Happily, the evil Norse gods are frustrated in the attempt (although Fafhrd makes a painful and unintended sacrifice of his left hand to Odin).
A similar conceit (where gods gain power from their followers) is introduced in L. Sprague DeCamp‘s Reluctant King books. Jorian, the main character, finds a small statue that he keeps… and every night the god represented by the statue appears in his dream since he is now that god’s only contact with the human world (all of the rest of his followers having died). What makes it funny is that the god is constantly whining about how long it has been since someone brought him flowers and seems more of a pain than he is worth. Finally when someone steals the statue and the god disappears, Jorian pretty much considers it good riddance.
Everyone keeps telling me I have to read ‘Small Gods.’ It’s on my list.
The idea that fantasy gods draw their power from their worshipers is one that appeals to me, and I enjoy the idea of a dynamic roster of gods whose power rises and falls with the fortunes of their churches in the material planes.