Types of Tricksters in Folktales
With the power of brains, cunning and deceit, the trickster is the dark archetype of men's desire found in folklore across the globe. He can be either the crafty hero or the dirty villain, both a creator and destroyer, and is mostly in pursuit of his own appetites and desires. Many culture heroes have been tricksters, famed for their cleverness, comedy and ability to win against larger or more powerful opponents than themselves.
China, Korea and Japan share a common trickster character throughout their folklore: the kitsune. A kitsune is a magical fox with the ability to shape-shift and disguise itself as a human. Kitsune are often portrayed as villainous women who trick human men into loving them, only revealing their true nature after marriage. In some tales the kitsune woman is benign, while in others she is frightening and may kill and eat human victims.
Greece and Rome
Ancient Greeks and Romans revered the ideals of trickery and deceit in many of their myths, with different divine characters conniving against one another. One of the most well known of these is Hermes, the god of travel, communication, trickery and thieving. While just a baby, he stole the sacred cattle of Apollo and hid them from the god. Hermes is one of the few gods who can pass easily between heaven, earth and the underworld, symbolizing his connection with the lighter and darker aspects of human nature. Other ancient Greek tricksters include Zeus, Hephaestus, Prometheus, Dionysus, Herakles and Perseus.
Coyote is celebrated as a trickster god across the breadth of North America and down to Mexico. The coyote was seen as a comical, lustful figure who often achieved great things, such as the creation of death in the world, if only by accident during the pursuit of his own selfish ends. He is both a powerful and blundering character. Other trickster figures in North America include the raven, the rabbit, the fox and the blue jay.
Different European countries believed in a wide range of tricksters, from the cute to the terrible. Rabbits and hares were known in many countries for their cunning and cleverness, epitomized in literature as Br'er Rabbit. Similar to Asian nations, the fox is a popular trickster figure in Britain and France, often in the form of Mr. Fox or Renard the Fox. One famous faerie trickster comes from the play "Midsummer Night's Dream" by William Shakespeare, going by the name Puck.
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images