Trickster God Creator Essay

1871 words - 7 pages

Tricksters appear in the mythology and folklore of many cultures around the world. Although the power and relative divinity of each Trickster varies from tradition to tradition, Tricksters have important roles in the creation, development, and sometimes destruction, of each culture. The Coyote of Native North American traditions is often depicted as assisting the “Great Mystery” or “Great Spirit” in the creating and populating of the world (Leeming). In the Greek myths Hermes is initially a sly infant who captures a tortoise with his untruths and fashions the first lyre from its shell, but eventually transitions to a place amongst the Olympic pantheon as the messenger of the gods. In the Norse myths of the Scandinavian countries, Loki is a mischievous nuisance, nonetheless responsible for the creation of many of the other gods' most identifiable possessions, but also the driving force behind the prophesied apocalypse, Ragnarok. Tricksters are more than thieves and mischief makers. As Lewis Hyde says in his introduction to the book Trickster Makes This World, “When he lies and steals, it isn't so much to get away with something or get rich as to disturb the established categories of truth and property and, by so doing, open the road to possible new worlds” (13).
While the Greek and Roman myths are some of the most widely taught, it is perhaps the Tricksters of Native North American tradition that are most recognizable in the modern age. Leeming and Page, in their book The Mythology of Native North America, suggest that no other region is “so trickster-oriented as Native North America” (47), and thus many native cultures have a Trickster along with the oft-present shaman, whether it be Coyote, Raven, Hare, or Spider. Perhaps the most – ironically – recognizable Trickster of North America is Coyote, the master of imitation and disguise. Coyote is sometimes purely self-concerned, such as in the Sioux story of “Coyote, Iktome, and the Rock” (Leeming 50-2), providing the subject for cautionary morality tales. He is also often the victim of his own pride, such as his attempt to stay awake by propping open his eyes in order to be the first to arrive at Spirit Chief's lodge at dawn and receive a new name. Coyote falls asleep anyway, retains his name, and creates a permanent slant in his eyes (Dove 17-26). At other times, however, Coyote is selfless and miraculous.
In the tale of “Montezuma and Coyote in Canoes,” from the Papago tradition of Arizona, after the Great Mystery has made the earth, and people have been made to populate it, led by Montezuma, Coyote comes to the great leader of men and instructs the chief to build a canoe. Montezuma doesn't understand why he would need a canoe, but before long a flood of Biblical magnitude washes away the land, and only Coyote and Montezuma survive to lead the new people the Great Mystery creates to repopulate (Leeming 110-11). It would seem easier to allow even the chief to perish in the flood if Coyote really...

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