List of fictional tricksters

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The trickster figure Reynard the Fox as depicted in an 1869 children's book by Michel Rodange.

This list of tricksters attests to both the enduring nature of the mythological figure of the trickster and its continued popularity in a variety of media.

The trickster in later folklore or modern popular culture, is a clever, mischievous person or creature, who achieves his or her ends through the use of trickery. A trickster may trick others simply for their amusement, they could be a physically weak character trying to survive in a dangerous world, or they could even be a personification of the chaos that the world needs to function.

An archetypical example is of a fairy tale of the King who puts suitors for his daughter to the test. No brave and valiant prince or knight succeeds, until a simple peasant arrives. Aided only by his natural wit, he evades danger and triumphs over monsters and villains without fighting. Thus the most unlikely candidate passes the trials and receives the prize. Such characters are a staple of animated cartoons, in particular those used and developed by Tex Avery et al. during the Golden Age of American animation.

Characteristics[edit]

Hynes and Doty, in Mythical Trickster Figures (1997) state that every trickster has several of the following six traits:[1]

  1. fundamentally ambiguous and anomalous
  2. deceiver and trick-player
  3. shape-shifter
  4. situation-inverter
  5. messenger and imitator of the gods
  6. sacred and lewd bricoleur

Tricksters in folktale and fiction[edit]

  • Anansi - The spider trickster of African origin. He considers himself cunning enough to trick and outwit anyone, but is also proud, lazy and impulsive, which often proves his undoing.
  • Br'er Rabbit - A slave trickster of African American origin.[2]
  • Coyotes in various Native American mythologies.
  • Curupira - A Brazilian folklore (male) jungle genie that protects the animals and the trees of the forests. It has red hair and backwards feet to confuse hunters and lumberjacks.
  • Dionysus - Greek God of wine, madness, and ecstasy. More than any other Greek God, he is associated with shape-shifting and taking on other identities (which is part of why he is also associated with actors). A thoroughly ambiguous person, in personality, but also in his androgynous figure, you never know exactly what he will do next.
  • Eris - Greek Goddess of discord in Greek mythology. Infamous for starting a fight between other goddesses over the Apple of Discord, leading to the Judgement of Paris and, ultimately, the Trojan War.
  • Eshu/Eleggua/Legba - One of the primary orishas in Yorùbá religion, patron of roads (especially crossroads), doors, and travelers, as well as a spirit of chaos and trickery.
  • Hermes - Messenger of the gods in Greek mythology (or Mercury in Roman mythology), patron of travelers, boundaries and thieves. Notably stole a herd of cattle from Apollo in his youth, but then invented the lyre and gave it to Apollo as payment.
  • Hershele Ostropoler - In East European Jewish folklore, based on a historical 18th Century person.
  • Huehuecoyotl - the gender-changing coyote god of music, dance, mischief and song of Pre-Columbian Mexico and Aztec Mythology. Befitting a trickster, he is the patron of uninhibited sexuality and often engages in trickery against the gods with camaraderie among mortals.
  • Jack - (best known from the story Jack and the Beanstalk) is a young boy who uses his wit to outsmart characters in many stories.
  • Jack Mary Ann - A folk hero from the Wrexham area of north Wales whose fictionalised exploits continue to circulate in local folklore.
  • John the Conqueror - Character who appears in many stories from the African American tradition. He is a slave that is so much smarter than any slave-master, he simply cannot be controlled.
  • Kitsune - They are described as "tricksters" with no care for the concept of right or wrong.
  • Kuma Lisa - A fox and trickster figure in Bulgarian folklore.
  • Loki - A cunning, shape-shifting god, sometimes benefactor and sometimes foe to the gods of Asgard. Famous as a catalyst for Ragnarök. The precise nature of Loki's being defies clear classification, as there is little detail regarding his mother, but he is at least half-giant on his father's side.
  • Māui - A Polynesian culture hero famous for his exploits and his trickery.
  • Maximón - A cunning deity in modern Mayan tradition. Famous for being a womanizer and using trickery to achieve his goals.
  • Max and Moritz - Principal characters of the book of the same name written by Wilhelm Busch in 1865. Famous for their tricks, Max and Moritz quickly became famous characters in Germany.
  • Nasreddin - In Turkish folklore, based on a historical 13th Century person.
  • Odysseus - Hero and king in Greek mythology. Came up with the idea for the Trojan Horse, and used his wits to escape perilous situations during the Odyssey, e.g. outwitting Polyphemus the Cyclops.
  • Pan - God of shepherds and flocks. He is a satyr: a creature that has the upper body of a man and the legs of a goat. In many stories, they talk of Pan, or just satyrs, in general, are known to play tricks on people, especially children, for their amusement.
  • Panurge - Companion of the Giant Pantagruel in the books of Francois Rabelais.
  • Prometheus - Tricks Zeus over sacrifices at Mecone, steals fire on behalf of mankind.
  • Puck/Robin Goodfellow - From Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, plays tricks on a group of humans who stumble into a forest. His final monologue explains the nature of tricksters.
  • Puss in Boots - A magical cat who tricks a king into raising a low born miller to the station of a great noble.
  • Reynard - A red fox and trickster figure who plays a central role in the moralistic fables of the Reynard cycle.
  • Saci - A Brazilian folklore character, a one-legged black or mulatto youngster with holes in the palms of his hands, who smokes a pipe and wears a magical red cap.
  • Sisyphus - Sly and audacious mortal king in Greek mythology who managed to cheat death twice, but angered the gods in the process and was condemned to endlessly push a boulder up a slope in Tartarus.
  • Sly Peter - In Bulgarian and Macedonian folklore.
  • Sun Wukong - Irrepressible Monkey King of Chinese mythology, whose exploits are described in Journey to the West.
  • Susanoo - Amaterasu's brother, god of storms and trickster of Japanese mythology. His destructive behaviour gets him banished from Heaven, though he later redeems himself through deeds of heroism.
  • Till Eulenspiegel – Trickster of German folklore.
  • Tokoloshe – Trickster of Zulu mythology.[3]

In movies, television, animation, novels, short stories, comics, and video games[edit]

  • Aang - The hero of Avatar: The Last Airbender enjoys tricking and playing jokes on his foes. Most of the Fire Nation thinks of him as a child because of this.[4]
  • Bart Simpson - From the animated TV series The Simpsons.[5]
  • Bill Cipher - A demon resembling a one-eyed triangle, and the main antagonist of the animated series Gravity Falls. He has many supernatural abilities and loves to use them to cause trouble for humans, including offering deals that invariably turn out badly for those who take them.
  • Bugs Bunny - A rabbit trickster, in some respects similar to Brer Rabbit.[6]
  • Clopin - King of the Gypsies and Master of Ceremonies at the Festival of Fools, from the Disney film The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He is a brightly-clothed jester who can be devious and unpredictable.
  • The Doctor - The title character of Doctor Who: Always a situation-inverter, deceiver and bricoleur, and sometimes ambiguous or trick-player, depending on the incarnations.[7]
  • El-ahrairah - The Prince of Rabbits, or the "Prince with the Thousand Enemies"; the trickster folk hero of the rabbits in Watership Down.
  • Felix the Cat - A "transgressor of boundaries" (in the most literal sense).[8]
  • Jack Sparrow - A notorious pirate captain from Walt Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean film series. Sparrow uses wit and deceit to attain his goals, preferring to end disputes verbally instead of by force.[9]
  • James Jesse/The Trickster - A supervillain from DC Comics and a foe of the Flash.
  • Jareth - King of the Goblins from Jim Henson's Labyrinth, who changes forms and uses magic to cajole the story's heroine through a series of puzzles.
  • The Joker - The chaotic counterpart to Batman's strive for order displays several characteristics of the trickster. Inscrutable, unpredictable and a defining obsession with gags and pranks that are sometimes harmless, sometimes deadly.
  • Kickaha - The Trickster from Phillip Jose Farmer’s World of Tiers novel series. Also known by his true name of Paul Janus Finnegan.
  • Loki (comics) - From the Marvel Comics series, and from the new Marvel movies Thor, The Avengers and Thor: The Dark World. He is based directly off of the trickster god Loki from Scandinavian mythology.
  • The Mask - Wears a mask imbued with Loki's powers and lack of inhibition.
  • Mister Mxyzptlk - An imp from the fifth dimension featured in the Superman comics.
  • The Pink Panther - A character featured at the start of the film and the animated series of the same name.
  • Puck from Gargoyles - The Faerie trickster from A Midsummer Night's Dream, he plays a major role in the Disney animated Television show "Gargoyles".
  • River Song - Character from Doctor Who who acts as the trickster to the show's titular trickster. She shows up in an episode, causes trouble, drags everyone into insane situations before solving the crisis, often with a kiss.[10]
  • Rumplestiltskin - A character from the Mother Goose Grim fairy tales in which he fits many of the attributes of the trickster and often tricks other characters for his own nefarious purposes.
  • Trickster - From the 1994 horror film "Brainscan" starring T. Ryder Smith as the Trickster.
  • The Trickster (Supernatural) - An antagonist of Seasons Two and Three of Supernatural, who often plays tricks on Sam and Dean. In Season Five, it is revealed that he is the archangel Gabriel who came to Earth to get away from the fighting between his angelic brothers in Heaven, and that he took on the name of Loki and masqueraded as a pagan god once on earth.
  • Woody Woodpecker - "A less complex version of the Trickster."[11]
  • Yun-Harla - The trickster goddess of the Yuuzhan Vong religion in the New Jedi Order series, who protagonist Jaina Solo impersonates in several novels.
  • Zomo, a rabbit from Nigerian folklore.
  • Tyrion Lannister - Astute observer/manipulator of phenomenon and sexually prodigious, both quintessential traits of the trickster archetype.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Hynes, William J. and William G. Doty. (1993). Mythical Trickster Figures, (pp. 34-42). Tuscaloosa:The University of Alabama Press.
  2. ^ Characteristics of a Slave Trickster[permanent dead link], Emerson College. Retrieved on July 11, 2007.
  3. ^ Harper, Graeme (2002). Comedy, Fantasy and Colonialism. A&C Black. p. 100. ISBN 9781847142160. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  4. ^ DiMartino, Michael Dante; Konietzko, Bryan (2007-09-06). "Interview: Avatar's Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino". IGN Entertainment (Interview). Interviewed by Eduardo Vasconcellos. Retrieved 2007-11-11. 
  5. ^ Grand Valley State University Trickster World Mythology Course (Eng 104). Retrieved on: 2007-07-20.
  6. ^ The Incarnation of a Trickster, Retrieved on July 11, 2007 Archived September 1, 2004, at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ Britton, PD (2011). TARDISbound: Navigating the Universes of Doctor Who. Yet the Doctor has seldom been a straightforward hero. He has often exhibited characteristics of the trickster, for he generally relies on wiliness and rhetorical skill more than martial prowess or physical force , and his character has been frequently tinged with antiheroism 
  8. ^ Patricia Vettel Tom. (1996) "Felix the Cat as Modern Trickster" American Art, Vol. 10, No. 1 (Spring, 1996), pp. 64-87. Retrieved on July 11, 2007
  9. ^ "Pirates Dead Man's Chest: Depp's Iconic Role". Emanuel Levy. 2006. Retrieved May 31, 2007. 
  10. ^ elisi (2011). "The Doctor's Final Lesson: Courtesy of River Song". The Doctor needs his own trickster figure to transport him to his own greenworld which, perforce, must be that much more chaotic and magical and insane and governed by all the primal forces even he tries to ignore. And there he can confront those conflicts within himself and find resolution to them before returning, fixed, to his real world. And order was restored with a wedding! 
  11. ^ Tina Blue. (2001) Traditional Themes and Motifs in Literature. Retrieved on July 11, 2007.