top of page
  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

Tricksters in a Nutshell

First of all, as tricksters are ultimately indefinable, they evade description.  Don’t take my word for it, Hynes (1993) quoting Pelton agrees:

The trickster is indefinable. In fact to define (de-finis) is to draw borders around phenomena, and tricksters seem amazingly resistant to such capture: they are notorious border breakers” (p. 33). Robert Pelton has observed that the trickster “pulverizes the univocal and symbolizes the multivalence of life. (Pelton 1980: 224).  Embodying this multivocality, the trickster himself eludes univocality by escaping from any restrictive definition: the trickster is always more than can be glimpsed at any one place or in any one embodiment… the trickster disorders and disassembles. (p. 35)

However, that being said, attempting the impossible, here is a brief sketch or broad overview of the trickster in 175 words or less:  (Actually it is 183, but in typical trickster fashion, to know a boundary is to break it, since tricksters are far too wide-ranging to be confined to a nutshell).  After that, we will get "A Bit of Background" on the trickser. Later, during the scene-by-scene-play, different trickster characteristics will be highlighted as they apply to Mary Poppins.

Tricksters can be culture heroes or clownish buffoons who appear in times of trouble, or who bring trouble with them.  They are concerned with opposites, and boundaries—they never met a boundary they did not break, cross, evade, move, blur, or in some instances create (Hyde, 1998).  Tricksters are the lords of the threshold, transition, and transformation.  They are boundary crossing psychopomps, culture creators, and transformers.  Tricksters are hermeneuts and psychic adventures, super-shamans who boldly go where others do not.  They especially favor liminal lands of chaos and communitas.  Tricksters violate taboos and customs, and have no regard for authority—disrupting the established order and inverting situations as they go.  But there is a method to the madness of the trickster.  While tricksters are playful and use jokes and laughter along with tricks and deception to work their magic, their stories simultaneously educate and enlighten.  Their metaplay dissolves the order of things and in bricoleur-style they create new worlds out of the bits and pieces of old orders that they have disassembled, and as such tricksters also are associated with creativity and the creation of consciousness. 

Now that we have an overview of the trickster, let us consider a few of the trickster qualities more deeply, beginning with a bit of background. ∆RC[mp11]


bottom of page