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On Tricksters and Humour:

From "Mythical Trickster Figures" ed. by Hynes & Doty (Tuscaloosa, 1993)

"Why and how and at what people laugh is perhaps the most revealing of human actions." Oscar Wilde's remark about taking ourselves too seriously as the "world's original sin" ought not to be passed over too quickly, since much of American religiosity (whether pop or formal) has trouble with both the comic and the deceitful. Trickster figures graph ways of operating that go against the Western grain. Despite Augustine's dictum that good can come from evil, we are taught to reject almost automatically the suggestion that a deceitful figure - by the definitions of our society, morally bad - can bring about good.

We, who find the trickster's antics amusing, laugh not just at the underhandedness of the tricks, but precisely at their unpretentious straightforwardness. The trickster is sneaky, but overtly skillful about his trickery: if we approve only grudgingly, it is because we lack the respect for the trickster often found in cultures where there is great praise given to the combination of vital survival skill and hunting. For example Luckert suggests that for the Navajo the divine trickster was originally a "shrewd exemplary model for human tricksters" who hunted to survive. Likewise we tend to forget that even earlier, hunting was not a matter of leisure-time sport but of the raw trickery, focused attention, and creativity that is necessary for individual and societal survival, or that for the Greeks, skill in trickery was part of the ideal for masculine success in warfare, love affairs, and commerce.

Our own more recent repugnance toward cleverness and jesting stems from an ideology long regnant in the West. In The Comic Vision, Conrad Hyers cites, as typical of many other moralists, the eighteenth-century German philosopher Georg Friedrich Meier: "We are never to jest on or with things which, on account of their importance or weight, claim our utmost seriousness. There are things ... so great and important in themselves, as never to be thought of and mentioned but with much sedateness and solemnity. Laughter on such occasions is criminal and indecent.... For instance, all jests on religion, philosophy, and the like important subjects". While it is echoed in many familiar moralistic pronouncements, Meier's position represents a strongly contrasting mentality to the tales of trickster figures, who profane precisely the most sacred dimensions.

Anything for a Laugh by mrhiddles (see: myth for context)

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‘Don’t lie to me,’ he said softly, staring into Loki’s eyes. ‘I know exactly who you are. A named thing is a tamed thing. I hereby name you child of Chaos. I name you Keeper of the Fire.’

Loki sneered. ‘That’s rather vague …’

The pale young man showed his teeth. ‘Oh, I haven’t finished yet. I name you Sky Traveller, Farbauti’s son, Begetter of Serpents, Father of Wolves—’

‘Father of Wolves?’ Loki frowned. The words were beginning to take effect – words or Word, he did not know – although what a trio of boys of the Folk would be doing with one of the secret texts from the Book of Invocations he could not at present begin to guess.

The three were not members of the Order. Of that he could be certain, he thought. But the words alone were powerful. A named thing is a tamed thing. Not that they stood a snowball’s chance of actually taming Wildfire. But in his present Aspect, subject to all the weaknesses and imperfections of his human form, they could perhaps come painfully close.

‘Look here,’ said Loki, playing for time. ‘This really won’t get you anywhere. But if you’ll just tell me what you want, then maybe we can do a deal. I can get you anything – gold, weapons, runes – women …’

The hairier brother – the one called Big H – looked up at this with some interest. Loki guessed that the three of them hadn’t had much luck with women – not entirely surprising, he thought. Their social skills were hardly impressive, and one – or maybe all – of them smelled.

‘Women,’ he went on silkily. ‘Oh yes. I know ways to make you irresistible to the sweeter sex. I can teach you cantrips you wouldn’t believe – runes to melt an ice maiden’s heart. I swear, by the time I’ve finished with you, they’ll be queuing up halfway to the Ridings to see you. Redheads, blondes, brunettes – or if you like exotics and you’re not too worried about the progeny, then I know some demons who’ll blow your mind and spoon it up like ice cream—’

‘He can talk, can’t he?’ said Big H.

‘He sure can,’ grinned his friend.

The pallid youth ignored them both. He simply went on with the canticle as his two friends watched with eager eyes, nudging each other in suppressed excitement, and Loki felt what was left of his strength ebb slowly away into the dark.

‘I name you Trickster, Father of Lies. I name you sire of Half-Born Hel. I name you Fire-Bringer, Architect and Destroyer of Worlds. I name you Archangel, Fallen One, Opener of Forbidden Doors, builder of the Citadel. I name you Dogstar, Lighter-than-Air …’

 

Loki (semi-real) by *Sispal

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No figure in literature, oral or written, baffles us quite as much as the trickster. He is positively identified with creative powers, often bringing such defining features of culture as fire or basic food, and yet constantly behaves in the most antisocial manner we can imagine. Although we laugh at him for his troubles and his foolishness and are embarrassed by his promiscuity, his creative cleverness amazes us and keeps alive the possibility of transcending the social restrictions we regularly encounter.

― Barbara Babcock-Abrahams, "A Tolerated Margin of Mess: The Trickster and his Tales Reconsidered," Journal of the Folklore Institute 11/3 (1975): 147
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skadisdottir:

Adaptations of Loki:1852- present
I don't even know all these yet!

[ reblogged from skadisdottir ] [ tumblr entry ]

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