PCS Blog

The Trickster

Posted by KellyC | 29 November 2012

Puck, the mischievous and terribly clever character in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is a prime example of an ancient archetype known as the trickster. Through deceptive yet humorous behavior, Puck’s actions catalyze Shakespeare’s witty story, causing a whirlwind of plot chaos. Similar to Puck, many other famous tricksters have played key roles in numerous tales, from Greek mythology to modern sitcoms. The list is long, but here are a handful of popular pranksters!



First, let’s take a look at the definition of a trickster.


Trickster’s the name and—you guessed it—playing tricks is the game. Each trickster is different.  Some are good and some are bad. Some tricksters develop into the story’s hero, while some remain the antagonist. What they all have in common, however, is a knack for deceiving and playing tricks on other characters, often upsetting the normal rules of everyday behavior.  They tend to cause discomfort while remaining untouched themselves. While some tricksters trick simply for their own amusement, others do so to facilitate change that they believe is necessary. Overall, tricksters represent chaos and unpredictability, using cleverness and foolishness to keep the plot moving forward. 


Who are some other talented tricksters?
Bugs Bunny
What's up doc? For Bugs Bunny, mischief is what's up. And he loves it! With that trademark smirk, Bugs Bunny seems to always be up to something. This lovable and wise-cracking Looney Tunes character is known for going against the rules and defying authority.
Odysseus, the Greek mythic hero, uses more than his great strength in his battles; he also
uses his intellect and his trickster characteristics to survive. Take for instance the infamous Trojan Horse incident, in which Odysseus befriends Polyphemus, only to put a spear through
the cyclops’ eye as he sleeps! Odysseus introduced himself to Polyphemus as “Nobody” so that when the other cyclopes hear Polyphemus crying out, he answers with "It's Nobody! Nobody is hurting me!” As a result, the other cyclopes go back to sleep and Polyphemus dies. Odysseus
killed the cyclops through his use of trickery!
Br'er Rabbit
This witty animal is the central figure in Uncle Remus' stories of the Southern United States. Uncle Remus is a fictonal character who narrates a collection of African-American folktales adapted and collected by Joel Chandler Harris. In these stories, the little trickster Br'er represents the idea that sometimes people must use extreme measures in extreme circumstances in order to survive. He plays both an example of what to do and what not to do.
One of the most important characters of West African and Caribbean folklore, this spider
has the ability to act and appear as a man! He is lazy yet clever, and loves to boast and
trick those around him.  
The Coyote
In Native American culture, the coyote is the traditional trickster figure and symbol in both the culture and oral tradition. While the coyote is both wise and foolish, he always survives. Through his mistakes, people learn more about their own weaknesses and foolishness. For the coyote, there is wisdom hidden in the foolery. He is a shapeshifter and an opportunist who uses cunning and stealthy behavior to break norms and boundaries. He delights in causing confusion, but always remains unbeaten.
Comments (1)

To your list of trickster’s, I’d add Tanuki, the Japanese raccoon dog made famous or infamous by Tom Robbins in Villa Incognito.

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