The following is a paper I wrote for my mythology class about the role of the trickster in mythology, I think it turned out pretty well, so I’m sharing it with you guys, all three of you loyal readers. 🙂 Enjoy.
A Cunning Mind- The Mythological Trickster
Tricksters have played quite the role in various mythologies since the dawn of time, and perhaps even before that if we’re inclined to listen to some of the characters tell it themselves. While other Gods and Goddesses, heroes and villains are known for their heroic or nor so heroic deeds, the tricksters gift is of their mind, their cleverness is what gets them into and out of any situation they come across.
In some cases, the trickster does a benefit to others, such as when the Native American trickster God Coyote stole fire from the fire beings to keep mankind warm in the winter (“How Coyote Stole Fire.” How Coyote Stole Fire. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 July 2016.) This was also done, similarly but in a different fashion, by Prometheus, in Greek mythology. Though, he had slightly different reason than sympathy to give mankind the gift of fire, as he was their creator as ordered by Zeus to do so after Zeus pulled him out of Tartarus. (“The Myth of Prometheus – The Thief of Fire.” Greek Myths Greek Mythology. N.p., n.d. Web. 121 July 2016) Strangely enough, and this is comparison for another time, the Greeks also went with the story of the God creating man from earth and water as did the Judeo-Christian faith sometime thereafter historically.
In the case of Prometheus, Zeus had instructed him not to imbue the newly created mankind with any special gifts, as I imagine he didn’t want any kind of potential uprising down the road. After all his whole familial history was built around a cycle of usurping power. So not even the spark of fire could belong to man. But Prometheus felt no loyalty to Zeus, and felt sympathy for the cold powerless humans below, so he tricked the goddesses who were watching the area where Zeus had kept his fire by tossing them a golden pear, saying it was for the most beautiful goddess in Olympus. While the goddesses began to fight each other over whom the pear was intended for, and the other gods were inclined to watch the Olympian smackdown, Prometheus made his move, stealing fire for mankind, keeping it in a hollowed out pumpkin (“The Myth of Prometheus – The Thief of Fire.” Greek Myths Greek Mythology. N.p., n.d. Web. 121 July 2016), and gave it to the squishy humans below. Unlike Coyote though, who had no one to answer for his actions, Prometheus was punished by Zeus for his stealing of the fire however, and was chained to a rock on Mount Caucasus, where he was forced to have his liver eaten out by an eagle, over and over again for eternity…or until Hercules freed him later on in one of his adventures at least.
These are cases of tricksters helping people though, more often than not, the trickster is more out to amuse his own curiosity, as is often the case in many of the Norse God Loki’s exploits. One of his more famous exploits is his role in the death of the god Baldur. Baldur’s mother Frigga hears a prophecy that Baldur will die, and to prevent this she essentially makes an agreement with all living things that they will not harm her son, all except for mistletoe, which the gods considered so small a thing that couldn’t possibly cause Baldur any harm. Loki realizes this, and forges a spear made of mistletoe, which he hands to the blind god Hod, and instructs him to toss it to Baldur. Hod not knowing what the spear was forged from, he tosses it to Baldur, who gets impaled by the spear, and dies. His spirit is then taken to Hel, the Norse realm of the dead. There is a way he can be resurrected, however, if all the living things in the realms cry for his loss, which they do, save for one cold hearted female frost giant who likely was Loki in disguise in the first place, and so Baldur remains in Hel until the end of days, Ragnarok. (“Loki – Norse Mythology for Smart People.” Norse Mythology for Smart People. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 July 2016.)
As I’ve shown, the trickster can be either a helpful ally or a thorn in the side of any story, the one thing that you can count on for sure is that a trickster will never make a story not entertaining.
“How Coyote Stole Fire.” How Coyote Stole Fire. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 July 2016.
“Loki – Norse Mythology for Smart People.” Norse Mythology for Smart People. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 July 2016.
“The Myth of Prometheus – The Thief of Fire.” Greek Myths Greek Mythology. N.p., n.d. Web. 121 July 2016.