Yesterday’s post explored Six Insights on the Trickster (or, “You got to use what you got.”), according to Malcolm Gladwell, today, stories from Joseph Campbell and Sherman Alexie.
Much of Campbell’s work incorporates that of Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology. For both, there existing archetypes consistent throughout the world – indeed, these models connect to our biological and psychic understanding with the “collective unconsciousness.” According to Jung, the Trickster “refuses to conform to societal expectations,” particularly to the end of “challenging authority.” Furthermore, these antics engaged mortals “in discourse over what constitutes morality and immorality.”
Campbell brings this character to live through his telling of the trickster-divinity Edshu in his classic “The Hero With A Thousand Faces.”
One day, this odd god came walking along a path between two fields. “He beheld in either field a farmer at work and proposed To play the two a turn. He donned a hat that was on one side red but on the other white, green before and black behind (these being the colors of the four World Directions: i.e., Edshu was a personification of the Center, the axis mundi, or the World Navel); so that when the two friendly farmers had gone home to their village and the one had said to the other, ‘Did you see that old fellow go by today in the white hat?’ the other replied, ‘Why, the hat was red.’ To which the first retorted, ‘It was not; it was white.’ ‘But it was red,’ insisted the friend, ‘I saw it with my own eyes.’ ‘Well, you must be blind,’ declared the first. ‘You must be drunk,’ rejoined the other. And so the argument developed and the two came to blows. When they began to knife each other, they were brought by neighbors before the headman for judgement. Edshu was among the crowd at the trial, and when the headman sat at a loss to know where justice lay, the old trickster revealed himself, made known his prank, and showed the hat. ‘The two could not help but quarrel,’ he said. ‘I wanted it that way. Spreading strife is my greatest joy.’
Sherman Alexie helped popularize the Native American trickster, the Coyote, in his book “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.” His insight is shared by telling a story of creation, a familiar companion with the Trickster.
Coyote, who is the creator all of us, was sitting on a cloud the day after he created the Indians. Now, he liked the Indians. liked what they were doing. This is good, he kept saying to himself. But he was bored. He thought and thought about what he should make next in the world. But he couldn’t think of anything so he decided to clip his toenails. He clipped his right toenails and held the clippings in his right hand. Then he clipped his left toenails and added those clippings to the ones already in his right hand. He looked around and around his cloud for somewhere to throw away his clippings. But he couldn’t find anywhere and he got mad. He started jumping up and down because he was so mad. Then he accidentally dropped his toenail clippings over the side of the cloud and they fell to the earth. The clippings burrowed into the ground like seeds and grew up to be the white man. Coyote, he looked down at his newest creation and said, Oh shit.”