Like many of the characters in American Gods, Mr. Nancy's got an enigmatic vibe that just makes him all the more fascinating. In effort to unwrap a little bit of said enigma, though, let's see what we know about him — starting with the mythology behind his character: What god is Mr. Nancy based on, exactly? Portrayed by the excellent Orlando Jones in the new TV adaptation, the character is a well-loved fan favorite, and he's got an interesting backstory.
If you've detected a knowing twinkle in his eyes, that (along with his fabulously eccentric mode of dress) should give you a pretty good hint — he's a beloved trickster, for starters. He's based on Anansi, the spider god of the knowledge of stories — a beloved figure from African folk tales. His origins began in West Africa, but his stories traveled along with the Atlantic slave trade, bringing him to the Caribbean, where he factors in as a major part of the folklore.
In fact, if you're lucky enough to have seen the clip of that searing (and timely) monologue Mr. Nancy delivers to slave captives in Episode 2, knowing the the true nature of Anansi's passage to the Caribbean brings even more weight to the already impactful scene. As part of its narrative, American Gods shines a spotlight on how the various Old Gods made their way to America, and Mr. Nancy's story illustrates a particularly dark and unpleasant side of our country's history.
As serious as the subject matter is, it's a wonderful introduction to Mr. Nancy, and it's yet another way the story explores America's various origins. It also serves as an exciting teaser for what Mr. Nancy's going to bring to the remainder of the series.
Also, if you happen to fall in love with Mr. Nancy throughout the American Gods (which, come on, you probably will, between the awesome writing and the pitch-perfect casting), you're actually in luck: Because in addition to the original American Gods novel, Neil Gaiman also wrote a companion book, Anansi Boys. It may not be the sequel that fans are still hotly anticipating (15 years after the initial publication, no less), but it's a wonderful book in its own right, and it's a great opportunity to see Mr. Nancy (and his two sons) take the spotlight.
It's early in the game, but who else is all-in for an Anansi Boys spin-off?