Trickster in the Land of Dreams

Trickster in the Land of Dreams

Trickster in the Land of Dreams

Trickster in the Land of Dreams


Zeese Papanikolas forges seemingly disparate events and movements in western history- including some of its strangest and most exotic strains- into a coherent whole by examining them against the laughter and wisdom of Shoshonean trickster tales. Seen against these tales, the West becomes both a canvas for the projection of utopian dreams and the site of their shattered remains. Papanikolas undertakes a dramatic retelling of Shoshoni creation stories and examines, along with other topics, the mythologies embedded in the "Dream Mine" of Mormon folklore, the heroic images of cowboys and Wobblies, the MX missile, the dark side of Oz, and the Las Vegas of tourists, dam builders, and gamblers. Among those whose visions are played out against the mirage-haunted background of the West are Cabeza de Vaca, Winston Churchill, Big Bill Haywood, and Native American wise man, Antelope Jake. It is a testament to the power of Papanikolas's conception that he can weave the themes and topics of each chapter into a book that is both eloquent and intellectually stimulating.


O Stop and tell me, Red Man, who are you, why you roam, And bow you get your living; bare you no God, no borne?

Mormon hymn


In a world without fire, on a plain, the creatures of the mythtime are gathered. They have come together for a handgame, or to hunt rabbits. Coyote is there, and Lizard, and Hummingbird with his pretty feathers. But the world in which they gather is a cold place. A lightless place. Back and forth the creatures go on the lightless, limitless plane, chafing themselves, shadows of who they will one day be. We do not know what real fire is, Coyote says. We haven't been using real fire.

Because a world without fire, like a world without desire, cannot exist. It cannot be conscious of itself. For fire is a kind of speech, a tongue. It is impossible to imagine a story without imagining a fire.

An ash floats down. Coyote sees it, cocks his head. Ash is the ghost of fire, the evidence of its absence. Coyote cocks his head at the ash and invents desire.

Two worlds are now possible, where only the boundaryless, unshaped world of unconsciousness was before. The world of fire is the world that must be created so that our world can imagine itself.

The birds fly up: Coyote sends them. Eagle falls back. So does Hawk. Finally Hummingbird flies up. He keeps going and he sees the fires smoking far in the West. The yonder has been made.

So the creatures of the mythtime set out across the Dusty Path to bring back fire. The way will be waterless and full of tricks. And the road between the . . .

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