Friday, October 15, 2010

The Trickster

Today we're back to a fundamental Jungian Archetype which is of course also quite prevalent in literature and film: The Trickster. This archetype has its roots in mythology and religion, but as a character type it permeates nearly all culture. The Trickster can be anything from chaotic evil to lawful good but generally must have at least some of these characteristics:
  • Fundamentally ambiguous and anomalous
  • Deceiver and trick-player
  • Shape-shifter
  • Situation-inverter
  • Messenger and imitator of the gods
  • Sacred and lewd bricoleur
The Trickster is quite common throughout folklore, such as the Coyote from many Native American Creation Myths, or Hermes from Greek Mythology. Some might also consider the Serpent from the Garden of Eden to be a Trickster.

Keep in mind that a Trickster can also fit another archetype, such as Fizban from the Dragonlance Chronicles who was also a Wise Old Man/Sage, or Aang from Avatar who is also a Hero and a Child (not just literally, but also as far as the Jungian archetypes he fits into).

Some other good examples might be Spider/Anansi from Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys, El-Ahrairah from Richard Adam's Watership Down, or Jareth, the Goblin King from the Labyrinth played by David Bowie with the impossibly exaggerated junk.

These would all be great examples. For my pick I'm going with Loki the "god of mischief" from Norse Mythology and the Prose Edda. Sometimes Loki is referred to as a god, sometimes as a Jotunn, which is like a supernatural giant. At times he serves the other gods and at times he causes major problems for them. He is also the father of many important mythological creatures and even the mother of Sleipnir, the eight legged horse I mentioned yesterday.

So who would you pick as an example of a Trickster? It doesn't have to be your very favorite, or even all that well known. Feel free to pick from folklore, literature, or film.

27 comments:

Jessica Bell said...

Hmm, ... the only one I can think of right now is the witch from Hansel and Gretel. Ugh. Sorry. Not very interesting!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

My last novel was based on Norse mythology, so I'm very familiar with dear old Loki.

I can't think of any more examples. Tamara Pierce wrote a book called Tricker's Choice, but he was a made up god.

Christina Lee said...

I love that you said El-Ahrairah from Richard Adam's Watership Down!!

Candyland said...

Me. I'm a trick. I mean trickster.

DEZMOND said...

Oh, I do love tricksters, naughty and wise :) They remind me on court jesters from Shakespeare's plays who were always telling the obvious and unpleasant truth by disguising it in a joke or mockery. And although everybody around them considered them the stupid ones, they were actually the most intelligent characters.

Creepy Query Girl said...

I'd have to say the fairy king's side kick Robin Goodfellow in shakespeare's 'A midsummer's night dream'

Hannah Kincade said...

The Joker from The Dark Knight even though he leaned more towards malice, he make me laugh a lot and I heart him in a scary way.

LTM said...

(drumming fingers) hmmm....do they *have* to be supernatural?

Hama's a bit supernatural.

Bish Denham said...

Okay this one's easy. Having grown up in the Virgin Islands and hearing the stories first hand, having won a contest for a translated/retold story, and loving how so much of the time his own tricks back-fire on him I HAVE to go with Anansi that mischievous spider.

Jess said...

When you mentioned Loki, I immediately thought of the movie Dogma :) That's a flick with some tricksters in it, though I don't think Matt Damon (Loki) was one of them, despite his character's name (maybe he was, I'll have to watch it again).

I agree with Creepy Query Girl--Puck is quite the troublemaker. Ummmmm...what about the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland?

Mesmerix said...

My NaNoWriMo project is actually going to use Nanabozho as inspiration and possibly background mythology.

Old Kitty said...

Othello's Iago: "I am not what I am".

:-)

Take care
x

Lydia Kang said...

What a great post.
I agree, Candyland is the perfect trickster. Tricksey is she, yep.

K. M. Walton said...

I'm going to say Ben from LOST. And when I say, "Ben from LOST" I get all bummed out because LOST is no more. Oh, LOST, I miss you so.

Colene Murphy said...

Jareth.
Or Bart Simpson.
Both good tricksters!

Katrina L. Lantz said...

Hmm, I like Reth from Kiersten White's Paranormalcy, a faerie who gives off a dark, mysterious vibe, but his motives are never clear.

Great post! Tricksters are some of the most developed characters in lore!

I gave you an award on my blog (it may be, ahem, too pink for your blog, but it's the thought that counts).

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm blanking here...
Some good ones listed!

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

Brer Rabbit, of course. "Don't throw me in dat dere briar patch!"

Holly Ruggiero said...

The only ones I can think of you've mentioned, but I know there are a lot more.

maine character said...

Um... Bugs Bunny?

Lisa_Gibson said...

Lucy from Peanuts. Poor Charlie Brown never gets to kick that football. I don't know. Great post though. :)

maine character said...

Another one - Q from Star Trek.

And here's some good news for you, Matt.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130603984

Lenny Lee! said...

hi mr matthew! i was gonna say anansi cause i love that trikster spider but now i gotta change that and say candyland cause i love that trickster more than anansi!
...hugs from lenny

RaShelle said...

All I can hear is the music from Jeopardy inside my brain. . . the pressure. LOL I'll have to think about it. A great post though. =D

Jen Daiker said...

Mine is a little different, I was racking my brain for something and came up a little low. However I chose Katy from Mean Girls, she is a trickster turned Mean Girl from all the sabotage she caused her friends and the Mean Girls.

Jemi Fraser said...

I thought I was going to be original with Q from ST-TNG, but Maine Character beat me to it!

Ishta Mercurio said...

"Jareth, the Goblin King from the Labyrinth played by David Bowie with the impossibly exaggerated junk."

This had me laughing out loud. Too funny.

Hmmm, a trickster, eh? How about The Joker? (I wanted to come up with one from ancient mythology, but my brain is too mushy right now.)