Archetypes: The Trickster

In Jungian psychology, the Trickster resides at the intersection of the subconscious and conscious. The archetype is essential for the individuation of a person, allowing the unconscious to rise to the surface, and the baser instincts to aspire to the divine. He is the collective unconscious that desires change.

The Trickster myth occurs widely across various cultures, in forms human and animal, including Hermes (Classical Greece), Eshu (Yoruba), Loki (Norse), The Monkey King (China), Coyote (indigenous N America), Ananse and Aunt Nancy (Ashanti) and Wakdjunkagla (Winnebago), Inanna (Sumeria), Matlacihuatl (Mexico). Most often male, he is creator and destroyer, go-between and messenger, the cunning fool, the taboo-breaker, questioning authority, mocking our folly and hypocrisy. As much deceitful, greedy and lustful, as friendly, helpful and with great powers of survival. He represents anarchy.

In mythology and literature, the Trickster is the prankster, the rule-breaker, the truth-teller and the wise-fool. He cuts the Hero down to size. As the comic sidekick, he strengthens common bonds between his readership.

Dramatically, The Trickster provides comic relief, balancing intense conflict and tension.

Examples in Literature

  • Coyote in The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales, Ellen Datlow
  • Loki in The Gospel of Loki, Joanne M Harris
  • Tyll Ulenspiegel in Tyll, Daniel Kehlmann
  • Puck in Puck of Pook’s Hill, Rudyard Kipling
  • Mr Fox in Mr Fox, Helen Oyeyemi
  • Pan in Jitterbug Perfume, Tom Robbins
  • Jared in The Trickster Trilogy (Son of a Trickster, Trickster Drift, and Return of the Trickster) Eden Robinson
  • Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare
  • The fox in Fox, Dubravka Ugrešič

Bibliography

Hyde, Lewis (2017) Trickster Makes this World: How Disruptive Imagination Creates Culture. Canongate.

O’Shea, Dhruva (2019) Jung and the Trickster

Vogler, Christopher (1998) The Writer’s Journey. Third Edition. Michael Wiese Productions.

See also:

Fox as Symbol

Archetypes: The Guardian

Archetypes: The Shadow

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