Mythical Trickster Figures: Contours, Contexts, and Criticisms

Mythical Trickster Figures: Contours, Contexts, and Criticisms

Mythical Trickster Figures: Contours, Contexts, and Criticisms

Mythical Trickster Figures: Contours, Contexts, and Criticisms

Synopsis

Mythical Trickster Figures, is the first substantial collection of essays about the trickster to appear since Radin's 1955 The Trickster. Contributions by leading scholars treat a wide range of manifestations of this mischievous character, ranging from the Coyote of the American Southwest to such African figures as Eshu-Elegba and Ananse, the Japanese Susa-no-o, the Greek Hermes, Christian adaptations of Saint Peter, and examples found in contemporary American fiction and drama. The many humorous trickster stories included are fascinating in themselves, but Hynes and Doty also highlight the wide range of features of the trickster--the figure whose comic appearance often signifies that the most serious cultural values are being both challenged and enforced. William J. Hynes is Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of Religious Studies at Saint Mary's College of California. William G. Doty is Professor of Religious Studies at The University of Alabama and the author of Mythography: The Study of Myths and Rituals also published by The University of Alabama Press.

Excerpt

Well, I tell you dis, ef deze yer tales wuz des fun, fun, fun, en giggle,
giggle, giggle, I let you know I'd a-done drapt urn long ago.

—Joel Chandler Harris, Uracie Remus stories, cited by
Lawrence C Levine, “'Some Go Up and Some Go Down':
The Meaning of the Slave Trickster.”

Almost all non-literate mythology has a trickster hero of some kind.
American Indians had the great rabbit and coyote, the ravens, and blue
jay. And there's a very special property in the trickster: he always breaks
in, just as the unconscious does, to trip up the rational situation. He's
both a fool and someone who's beyond the system. And the trickster hero
represents alt those possibilities of life thai your mind hasn't decided it
wants to deal with. The mind structures a lifestyle, and the fool or
trickster represents another whole range of possibilities. He doesn't respect
the values that you 've set up for yourself, and smashes them.
—Joseph Campbell, in An Open Life

Brer Rabbit, cited in our first epigraph, is just one of many intriguing trickster figures. For centuries, perhaps millennia, and in the widest variety of cultural and religious belief systems, humans have told and retold tales of tricksters, figures who are usually comical, yet serve to . . .

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