A trickster is a character in folktales that usually appears as an animal who has human traits — like being able to talk. Trickster tales are used to entertain and often to teach lessons about how to behave and treat other people. First Nations people have used trickster stories to teach their children for many years. Tricksters are smart and they use their knowledge to play tricks or to try and bend the rules.
Yes! Trickster tales are popular in cultures all over the world. In West Africa and the Caribbean, Anansi the Spider is featured in trickster tales. In China, the trickster is called Sun Wukong, or The Monkey King, and the Eastern European trickster is The Fox. One trickster that doesn’t appear as an animal is Loki, the Norse god of mischief.
There are many tricksters in Indigenous stories! Many trickster stories have a coyote or raven as their trickster because they’re usually considered to be clever creatures. Tricksters usually move easily between our world and the spirit world and can appear as animals, humans or even rocks!
Trickster stories can be used to share history or to entertain or to teach a lesson, like the one of Baby Turtle:
There was a baby turtle who lived by the river with his mom and brothers and sisters. One day, the turtle decided he wanted to go to the nearby meadow to play and eat the grass that only grew there. But his mother was busy with his brothers and sisters and didn’t have time to take him.
Baby Turtle thought he might be able to sneak off to the meadow and be back before anyone knew he was gone. As quietly as he could, he crept away from his family and headed to the meadow. He had a wonderful time chasing butterflies and snacking on the sweet meadow grass.
But before he knew it, it was starting to get dark. Baby Turtle realized his mother might be starting to worry and began the long walk back home. After walking for a while, he looked around. This wasn’t the path home! Baby Turtle quickly turned around and started walking the other way. But that wasn’t the right way either. Baby Turtle realized he was lost.
A coyote was passing by and heard the turtle crying. “What’s the matter, friend?” he asked him. Baby Turtle told the coyote that he was lost. “Oh don’t worry about that,” the coyote told him. “Because I’m hungry and I feel like a snack. Turtle would really hit the spot.” Baby Turtle thought fast — for turtles may be slow but they think very quickly.
“You can’t eat me, Mr. Coyote,” he said. “I have the strongest shell in the world and if you can’t break my shell, you won’t be able to eat me.” The coyote thought for a minute. “Well… I could try rolling you down that hill,” he said. The turtle laughed. “That wouldn’t break my shell!”
“Hmmm. I know!” the coyote cried. “I could take you down the river and drop you in!” The turtle looked at him and shouted “NO! Not the river, anything but the river!” The coyote picked the little turtle up in his jaws and ran off to the river. He stood over the water and dropped the turtle in! Baby Turtle swam off, waving and calling over his shoulder, “thanks for taking me home!”