Reading List: Tricksters

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Painting by Jan Matejko Stańczyk.

The trickster is an archetype that appeared in the myths of many different cultures and is still popular with writers today. These characters are rule-breakers and agents of chaos; they are often animals (e.g. foxes, crows, coyotes), travellers, or even shapeshifters able to cross boundaries between worlds. For this reason they sometimes function as a guide or messenger, like the Greek god Hermes. Characteristically, the trickster is clever and creative. They generally lie to obtain sex, food, or just to get out of something they don’t want to do, using their wit to outsmart of the Man/the Establishment/the gods/what have you.

Since they are so unpredictable and paradoxical, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what the perfect definition of a trickster is. As Lewis Hyde puts it in Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth and Art:

[The] best way to describe trickster is to say simply that the boundary is where he will be found – sometimes drawing the line, sometimes crossing it, sometimes crossing it, sometimes erasing or moving it, but always there, the god of the threshold in all its forms.

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Book Review: “The Resurrectionist” (2013) by E.B. Hudspeth

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The anatomy of a siren.

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When I first saw this book I was in a bookstore in Liverpool and I fell in love the second I opened it to a random page. I looked, saw, closed it again, and said “yep, you’re coming with me.” The page I saw had an detailed anatomical drawing of a pegasus (you know, a mythological horse with wings), complete with a list of Latin terms for all the different bones and muscles. Have I piqued your interest yet?

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Literary Theory: Mythos/Logos and the Birth of Fiction

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A mosaic from the ruins of Pompeii depicting Plato’s Academy.

Tell me, O muse, of that ingenious hero who travelled far and wide after he had sacked the famous town of Troy. Many cities did he visit, and many were the nations with whose manners and customs he was acquainted; moreover he suffered much by sea while trying to save his own life and bring his men safely home; but do what he might he could not save his men, for they perished through their own sheer folly in eating the cattle of the Sun-god Hyperion; so the god prevented them from ever reaching home. Tell me, too, about all these things, O daughter of Jove, from whatsoever source you may know them.

Homer, The Odyssey (trans. Samuel Butler).

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