Who are the Tricksters?
Every nation has its own culture peculiarities. These cultures differ on the ways of leaving, surviving, and in the view on life. These differences can be seen in the myths of a specific nation. Greece myths are about Zeus, Hercules and his travels, for Hephaestus. Norway is famous for Loki, Odin, Sigurd. Egyptian myths about Ra, Anubis shows their beliefs. Thus, all the myths and legends show people’s persuasion in existence of something supernatural that controls their lives and set the rules.
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They represent their religion, culture, and lifestyle. However, myths and legends are not the only sources to learn about the nation. The wide variety of information about the routine life is in the folk tales. These tales were told to entertain children and pass the knowledge about what is good and what is evil, to save the wisdom of the nation. Many of these tales are about heroes and their troublemakers. These troublemakers are called tricksters, and tales of them are one the most popular tales among folk stories.
Tricksters are usually characters who bend the rules and avoid them pursuing their own goals. Sometimes tricksters break the rules in a malicious way. Although tricksters can be in a human shape, usually they are represented as animals. Examples of them are Anansi, spider trickster; Zomo the Rabbit from Nigeria; Coyote, famous among Native Indian tribes, represents a trickster and, sometimes, the creator of the life, etc. Tricksters differ in form and shape all around the world; nevertheless they have mush in common. The main traits are cunning and foolish simultaneously. They are often thieves. Tricksters are usually selfish. In addition, the main trait is that they manipulate others to get what they want. Further discussion will be about African tricksters and their characters.
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The common type of the African trickster tale hero is the animal, which behaves like human, which uses its cunning to get the wanted result. Though in the future, they may help other animals, they care about themselves on the first place. In the tale of Blackbird and Ringdove tells a story where birds gathered and argued on beauty of each other. Birds agreed that the Blackbird was the most beautiful of them, and they wanted to be as beautiful as she was. Blackbird agreed and granted a Ringdove a black feather ring on her neck by touching it with her fingers. The birds envied the beauty of Blackbird and desired it, so Blackbird promised them to give the potion that will make them beautiful, demanding the obedience in return. The birds said, “you can do whatever you want to us” (p. 177). The next day Blackbird visited other birds, which desired for the potion of beauty, but was astonished with their dirty and filthy lives. He cursed them, giving Fowl the “speckled coat, so that you will resemble leopard…he will devour you” (p. 177). Blackbird cursed all the birds and made them eat the grains that belong to her. The only thing that connects Ringdove and Blackbird is the black ring on the neck. In this tale, Blackbird has a selfish trait. The point of the story is that Blackbird tricked all the birds, promising them beauty, but at the end punished them, making them the victims of people and other animals, in addition making them serve her as slaves.
The Story of Jackal
The other example of trickster’s selfishness, along with cunning and manipulation is the story of Jackal. When the droughts stroke the land, Lion assembled all the animals to solve the problem. Animals decided to dig a hole in the earth so it would collect the water for them. Nevertheless, Jackal did not want to participate in this activity because he “was not going to scratch the earth in making water holes” (p. 178). However, when the hole was ready, Jackal was the first one to drink from it and bathe in the water. The animals become angry, and Lion ordered Baboon to guard the water hole. However, Jackal was ready for it: he knew that Baboon liked the honey more than anything in the world. Therefore, he pretended to have some honey in his pot, and made an arrangement with Baboon so he will do anything he wants to him. He tied him up, hit him with his battled stick, and drank the water again. Tortoise then proposed a plan to catch Jackal, and it worked out. Lion order for Hyena to execute Jackal, but Jackal demanded the last will. The trick worked out. Animals shaved his tail and spilled some oil on it, and as Hyena was ready to execute him, Jackal slipped of Hyenas jaws and run away. Lion chased him. After a long chase, Jackal was “standing on his hind legs, with his shoulders pressed against the rock” (p. 179). He shouted to Lion that the stone would kill both of them, if Lion will not help him. Therefore, Lion took all the weight of the stone allowing Jackal to escape for the last time. In this story, Jackal represented the classical traits of tricksters – he was lazy and manipulative, using the hole dug up by other animals. He manipulated them in order achieve what he wanted for three times – first when he used a water for the first time, second time, when he tricked Baboon, and finally, when he escaped his execution. The selfishness of Jackal is on the top when he persuades Lion to hold the stone and escape, leaving Lion to starve.
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Tricksters are not cultural heroes as Prometheus or Loki, who are part of the myths; they are rather the heroes of the tales which tell us about routine wisdom and show the solution of the minor problems. Although the image of trickster varies all around the world, it has many in common among all the cultures. Trickster is usually an animal, who arrange others to make the work for them. They can be both stupid and intelligent in the same time. They bend and change the rules of the game or activity to achieve their own goals, thus they are selfish. Trickster does not punish hero, rather causing him many troubles. The tales of tricksters are one of the most popular and widely met in folklore of many countries and nations.