Tricksters of World Mythology

The Trickster is one of the more interesting aspects of world mythology, as almost every culture boasts a trickster god or hero of some sort. Common traits of a trickster god/hero include stubborness, duplicity, greed, gluttony, laziness, cunning, unpredictability, and deceit. Usually, they have some sort of "magic power" altough they are not always gods or goddesses. They range in intelligence from foolish to cunning and may be more "evil" (loki) or more "good" (coyote). They are as often a teacher as they are a liar, gambler or thief. Strangely enough, most Tricksters are male, with the exception of Uzume, the Japanese Trickster goddess.

The Trickster is especially prevalent in Native American mythology -- each region of the Americas has its own animal Trickster-hero. These include:
Spider --> North and Eastern Woodlands
Hare --> Plains and Great Lakes
Coyote --> Western Southwestern U.S.
Raven/Crow --> Pacific Northwest
Wolf --> Inuit

More Famous Tricksters:

Tricksters to Look Into:
Nanabozho (or Wenabozho)
Iktomi (or Unktomi)

Back to Mythos

A slightly different take on the trickster figure in mythology:

In my mind, they are also identified with the notion of writing, communication, messages; I am of course, thinking most especially of Hermes, Mercury, Thoth.

One could take this further, identifying novelty and invention with these figures, and, as I have suggested in Hermes, we only know the gods through the messages we receive from them, delivered by the messenger god; they could be an invention in the literary creation that is the message.

As for the trickster image, one so often reviled as evil, see Loki in particular, this may only be the result of the appearance of something new and different on the scene.

Imagination is not usually accepted into society. Its bearers are, with great regularity, shunned. Society eventually accepts the gifts of the inventive imagination, as evinced by the high position these figures are often accorded. But the reverence is not full-throated, and we have the stories to prove it.

A villain published by DC Comics. The Trickster first appeared in The Flash #113 in 1960.

James Jesse was the youngest member of the Flying Jesses, a family act that specialized in high-wire walking. James was to be trained in the family business, but there was only one problem: James was afraid of heights. James spent a good deal of time ducking practices and spent the free time learning about the great stage coach robber, Jesse James.

When James was finally cornered into learning to walk the high-wire, he used his inventive ability to create a pair of air-walking shoes that allowed him to walk on air by use of air jets. James used the shoes to appear to walk the high-wire and soon was the star of the show, performing unparalleled stunts and amazing audiences. James found that he enjoyed the thrill of the performance, but soon grew bored with the hire-wire act.

To get a greater thrill, James turned to crime taking after his somewhat namesake Jesse James. James adopted a costume, calling himself the Trickster and began a crime spree. Using his air shoes, the Trickster began to hold up airplanes in mid-flight. How the Trickster got around the whole "the plane is going a hell of a lot faster than you can walk" issue, the "Hey, everytime I open the door in midflight, all the air along with a couple of flight attendents get sucked out" question, and the "Why am I turning blue? Is it the lack of oxygen or the freezing cold?" problem were never properly address.

Soon, the Trickster began a crime spree in Central City, home of the Silver Age Flash. The two clashed with the Scarlet Speedster defeating the the Trickster and sending him to jail. The Trickster escaped and became one of the Flash's villains who banded together as the Rogues Gallery.

After the disappearance of the Flash, the Trickster left Central City and traveled to California, where he clashed with the hero Blue Devil. Blue Devil convinced the Trickster that his inventive abilities would allow him to get a job as a special effects artist and used his connections to help him secure a job.

The Trickster went straight for a time, but became engaged in the demon Neron's plot to defeat the present Flash Wally West by using the old Rogues Gallery. The Trickster aided West in defeating Neron and returning his old cronies to normal.

Of late, a new Trickster has appeared on the scene using equipment stolen from James Jesse. He has banded together with some new villains to form a new Rogues Gallery.

Trick"ster (?), n.

One who tricks; a deceiver; a tricker; a cheat.


© Webster 1913.

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