Mythology: Trickster as a Human Condition Essay
The study of mythology, folklore, and religion is full of trickster stories. These stories feature tricksters as gods, goddesses, men, women, or anthropomorphic animals whose life is characterized by trickery behavior. The trickster disobeys rules and conventional ways of living. According to Leeming (2010, p. 355), tricksters are mostly depicted as being of the male gender in many myths from different cultures. He also adds that the trickster represents a powerful figure in possession of abilities to introduce chaos when society is tranquil, disturb the norm, and raise difficult questions in particular situations.
Out of the disruptions that the trickster causes, opportunities arise for a new understanding of various phenomena. The whole trickster phenomenon embodies a contradiction in that he always creates a disorder where there is order, where there is disorder, the trickster always creates order. It’s perhaps the clearest illustration of the creative force that the trickster plays in myths.
Trickery and Tricksters
More often than not, the trickster employs witty tricks on its subjects to get what he wants. The creative force in the trickster’s activities clearly comes out when the trickster is analyzed. According to Hyde (1998), tricksters are boundary crossers. Their creative nature enables tricksters to cross both physical and social boundaries. As a result, the trickster is always a traveler who is always on the lookout for his next victim. In the course of his travels, the trickster breaks societal rules, usually for personal benefit.
The trickster also crosses lines and breaks the rules and connections. In many situations, he renders the existing situations blurred, trashing the thin line between right and wrong, sacred and profane, male and female, young and old, and the living and dead (Hayde, 1998, p.7). Furthermore, the trickster changes in shape and form and may change from human beings to animals and vice versa.
Perhaps a cheeky and controversial side of the trickster is his use of creative lying techniques to obtain basic needs like food and sex. Leeming (2010, p. 356) asserts that tricksters are very sexually active and immoral. However, the very immorality that the trickster’s exploits represent signifies the essence of creativity
The achievements of tricksters in mythology are unlimited. Their role in the creation of new boundaries rules and norms cannot be overlooked. For instance, there are myths alluding to them; some gods were given wisdom by tricksters that made them rise to heaven. Hyde adds that their creative power more often than not enables them to discover or create important and previously unknown cultural tools like fire and musical instruments.
The role of the creative power of the trickster can, therefore, be summed as serving the purpose of teaching and learning by bad example. Besides serving to induce critical reflection on society’s norms and rules, the creative force of tricksters also is used to promote some sacred principles among the intended audience. The trickster’s creative force is sometimes used to whip the intelligence standing of society and to highlight the importance of creating new cultural traits that people feel are important and necessary in society.
The trickster is used to portray and encourage flexibility and freedom of the body and mind as well as the spirit. It’s in the way of encouraging people to live their lives and to take advantage of the unlimited opportunities. Additionally, the creative force is used to encourage people to develop the courage and willingness cleverly defy authority, and to come up with creative solutions to the will ensure continuity of the society.
Hyde, L. (1998). Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Leeming, L. (2010). Creation myths of the world: an encyclopedia: Volume 1. NY: Routledge.
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