Thursday, March 31, 2011

Trickster Tales - Skipping Across the Continents

The trickster figure Reynard the Fox 
by Michel Rodance, 1869

April, the month for tricksters, jokers and fools is just a few hours away. Here in Massachusetts it seems the tricksters are getting an early start because snow is predicted for tomorrow! But we are a hardy bunch in New England and we won’t let a few snowflakes spoil our fun.

As with all stories trickster tales travel from culture to culture, shape shifting as they skip across the continents. The trickster might be a fox in Japan, mouse deer in Asia, a coyote or raven among the Native Americans, or a spider in West Africa just to name a few.

“As their name suggests, tricksters love to play tricks on other gods (and sometimes on humans and animals). But perhaps the best definition of a trickster is the one given by Lewis Hyde: "trickster is a boundary-crosser.” By that, he means that the trickster crosses both physical and social boundaries-- the trickster is often a traveller, and he often breaks societal rules… The trickster often changes shape (turning into an animal, for example) to cross between worlds. In his role as boundary-crosser, the trickster sometimes becomes the messenger of the gods…John Lame Deer said, tricksters "are sacred [because] we Indians also need their laughter to survive.”

So here’s to the tricksters, whether fox, raven or mouse, who have added so many stories and laughter to our lives!


Br’er Rabbit

Jamaica Anansi Stories

The Monkey’s Heart
Native American Tricksters of Myth and Legend
Trickster Wives and Maids

The Trickster: The Hlakanyana and Huveane – Bantu Folktales

The Trickster Tricked

Tricksters From Around the World

Fools, Tricksters, Festivals and Spring – My blog post from April 2009 with some additional links for trickster tales.


African and Native American Trickster Folktales by Jennifer Smith

Around the World with Tricksters – Short article with a helpful bibliography at the end.


Fools and Tricksters – Bibliography by Carol Hurst

Folktales of Joha, Jewish Trickster By Matilda Koén-Sarano – A selection of children’s books focusing on trickster tales.

Trickster Tales by Josepha Sherman

Takoma Park Library – Wonderful bibliography of Trickster Tales, including Raven, Coyote, Anansi and more. 


Aesop and Ananse – Animal Fables and Trickster Tales

Fable and Trickster Tales From Around the World

The Trickster Around the World  

Trickster Tales Lesson Plan


Rabbit Paper Bag Puppet

Raven the Trickster

Spider Windsock

In my work with the Massachusetts Humanities Council FAIR program one book we shared last year was Anansi and the Moss Covered Rock. I designed the word search below as a take away for the children. Feel free to copy and paste into a word document and use it in your work. If the cut and paste does not work properly email me at and I will send it along as an attachment.

Karen Chace  2011 ©
This blog post was painstakingly researched and compiled by Karen Chace. Permission for private use is granted. Distribution, either electronically or on paper is prohibited without my expressed written permission. For permission please contact me at Of course, if you wish to link to my newsletter via your website, blog, newsletter, Facebook page or Twitter please feel free to do so; I greatly appreciate your support and personal integrity.


Linda Gorham said...

Love this!

Karen Chace said...

Thanks Linda!