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The Trickster

For those people (whether they are themselves religious or not) who have grown up immersed in the Judeo-Christian tradition, the image of the archetypal divine figure û whether god or angel or saint û is an entity of pure goodness. Moreover, within the Judeo-Christian tradition, divine beings are most certainly both honest and trustworthy; indeed one of the ways that humans and divine entities may be distinguished from each other is precisely along this axis.

But this distinction between humans as inconstant and fallible and gods and their minions as trustworthy, always good and perfectly honest is a certainly not a universal aspect of human pantheons. In fact, it may exist in a minority of human cultures, for many of the worldÆs religions contain a figure who straddles these descriptive categories. This being, who is in the classificatory system of the folklorist known as a Trickster, may be either semi-divine or mortal but in either case serves as an intermediary between the world of the gods and the world of mortals. This paper examines two different Trickster types drawn from two very different cultures, Kweku Ananse, the spider-man of Ghana and a figure drawn from classical Greek myth, Prometheus.

At first these characters seem to have little to do with each other. Some of these differences are simply reflections of broader historical and cultural factors, but it is also true that these characters are not perfectly analogous, and the discrepancy between the two goes to the heart of the argument presented in this paper û which is simply that there are two types of Tricksters. The world of Tricksters can be divided into primary and secondary trickster characters. Kweku Ananse is an archetypal primary Trickster figure, in a sense a figure whose entire raison dÆOtre is to promote sufficient discord in society that he himself can create opportunities that allow him in general to come out on top. Prometheus is, in the context...

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The Trickster. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 14:39, March 18, 2019, from