“Trickster” Tales

I have never liked the trickster genre of folktales. Stories that center around characters like Yogbo the Glutton, Coyote, Raven, Brer Rabbit and the like (they exist in every culture).

They are, in general, shallow, Machiavellian, and utterly self-centered individuals.

They serve an important cultural role, especially among oppressed peoples, as they show the “little guy” triumphing over the abusing powers. But they also show a self-serving disregard for authority as an end in itself, as a form of entertainment.

Their attitude is that being oppressed automatically gives one the license to behave as s/he wishes, no matter who that may hurt. None of this “rising above” stuff.

One’s desire for pleasure or amusement is reason enough for any choices made.

This is on my mind just now because I just finished watching Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Jack is your classic trickster character: the good he does is calculated to be in his favor, and good or bad he plays everything off as charming.

Does it well, too. Makes me very uncomfortable to watch.

A traditional tale about Raven summarizes the essence of tricksters for me, and the heart of my dislike for them.

4 thoughts on ““Trickster” Tales

  1. I love folk tales! I don’t know a lot of the American or European ones, though. I think my parents steered me away from those characters when I was younger! I wasn’t, for example, allowed to read The Cat in the Hat, in which children are goaded on to misbehave.

  2. Sorry I can’t help you with the pirate question. I am not familiar with enough with Gilbert and Sullivan. I would imagine that Johnny Depp is, and it may be that he modeled Capt Jack after the Pirate King, perhaps subconsciously.

    There’s been discussion about how much of it was modeled on Keith Richards. Enough discussion that Keith Richards is actually going to appear in the third film, as a sort of joke, I guess.

    Ah, here we go. According to Wikipedia:

    “Richards is making a cameo appearance as the father of Captain Jack Sparrow (played by Johnny Depp) in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. [2] Depp has stated that he based Sparrow’s mannerisms on Richards. According to castmate Bill Nighy, Richards was so drunk on the set that director Gore Verbinski had to hold his shins steady while he filmed his scenes.[3]”

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