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Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art

4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  871 ratings  ·  126 reviews
Trickster Makes This World solidifies Lewis Hyde's reputation as, in Robert Bly's words, "the most subtle, thorough, and brilliant mythologist we now have." In it, Hyde now brings to life the playful and disruptive side of human imagination as it is embodied in trickster mythology. He first revisits the old stories--Hermes in Greece, Eshu in West Africa, Krishna in India, ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published February 16th 1999 by North Point Press (first published 1997)
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The Lightning Thief by Rick RiordanThe Last Olympian by Rick RiordanThe Sea of Monsters by Rick RiordanThe Odyssey by HomerThe Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan
Best Books About Mythology
58th out of 640 books — 1,287 voters
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Lannan Non-Fiction Awards
20th out of 37 books — 4 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,837)
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This is the sorta book you always wish you were able to write. It's thick, learned, full of digressions and personal asides, and the dude even translates the Homeric Hymn to Hermes (say it fast, I dare ya) out of Greek himself. I doubt it's for everyone. The pace can be a tad pokey; I recommend reading a chapter at a time and then setting the tome aside for a bit. Also, I suspect some of the personal stories can come off as self-indulgent. And let's face it, Hyde is an academic, though this book ...more
If Neil Gaiman and Michael Chabon haven't read this book and borrowed concepts liberally, then they are operating in a parallel universe, mining the same sources. It's a rich and deep vein.

Hyde rambles through the many ways Trickster figures influence human thought and action. The idea of the disruptive as necessary, even sacred, to life, has wide distribution. "...the origins, liveliness, and durability of cultures require that there be space for figures whose function is to uncover and disrupt
I enjoy reading about mythology, I think, because I find myths to be resonant, but it's often hard to put my finger on why they seem so significant. In Trickster Makes This World, Hyde examines tricksters from various cultures (Raven, Coyote, Hermes, Krishna, Eshu) and talks about the ways that these figures signify a certain attitude toward life. For Hyde, tricksters embody the ability to act with cunning, turn accidents into opportunities, and subvert those assumptions that are so ingrained th ...more
This book is good for two reasons: 1. It makes anthropolgy super-interesting by giving raunchy examples of devious (and entertaining) beings; Tricksters 2. It exposed me to the idea of guilt and shame cultures, which every educated person should know about - but somehow I went to college for 9 years and never heard of it.

This book is written by a man who was head of creative writing at Harvard, so if you don't have 50k a year to spend on school, this is the next best thing.

Anna L  Conti
The power of this book, for artists, is the overwhelming evidence of our descent from a being more than human, less than divine - one who inhabits the crossroads, crosses boundaries, works the joints, sees more and risks all.
Amanda (Amy) Goode
Trickster Makes This World came to me by way of Emily Levine's TED talk: back in February 2013. I was particularly interested in the notion that "trickster" is a boundary crosser by nature. I read aloud from the book on our travels to and from Little Rock, Arkansas in March 2013- a trip which ended with my husband being fired by the company he had worked for since 1992. Now referred to as the "great upheaval" this was the culminating event of a 3 year per ...more
I read the hardcover edition. Great text about how to circumnavigate traps of culture.

And at his mother’s home, Hermes…
slipped sideways through the keyhole,
like fog on an autumn breeze.

The trickster is a boundary-crosser, or brings to the surface a distinction previously hidden from sight. Trickster is the god of the threshold in all its forms.

Chance the rap and slip the trap

poem by ishmael reed about ralph ellison
i am outside of
history. i wish
i had some peanuts; it
looks hungry there in
its cag
This is a very analytical view of trickster mythology, although I think this is a good thing, because the themes that emerge give a fuller picture of what tricksters are about.
For example, tricksters are obsessed with traps: setting them and escaping them. Just like they're attracted to gates.
There's some application of the trickster mythology to real life people like Frederick Douglass, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Marcel Duchamp (sp?). The real-life figures never seem to match up to the legends
"He is the spirit of the doorway leading out, and of the crossroad at the edge of town..." (p.6)

"In short, trickster is a boundary-crosser. Every group has its edge, its sense of in and out, and trickster is always there, at the gates of the city and the gates of life, making sure there is commerce...trickster is the creative idiot, therefore, the wise fool, the gray-haired baby, the cross-dresser, the speaker of sacred profanities.....trickster is the mythic embodiment of ambiguity and ambivale
Mar 22, 2007 Brian rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
By far my favorite non-fiction book. The power of the book lies in its ability to explain the enduring presence of trickster myths across a number of different cultures by connecting tricksters with the impulse of artistic creation. By relating tricksters to real-life artists, Hyde demonstrates the relevance of ancient myths to the modern world. The book is elegantly written, compelling, and a pleasure to read. I was awestruck the first time I read it.
Another great book by Lewis Hyde. It's not as exciting as The Gift - but an interesting look at the "trickster" in native cultures and in contemporary life. It appealed to me as a look at the socio-cultural history of people who are Machiavellian types, manipulators, and behind the scenes puppet masters. I think W and Cheney are modern day tricksters.
Nicki Markus
Trickster Makes This World is a stunning book that offers and insightful and playful look at trickster figures in different mythologies and the role they play, both within their respective myths and in culture in general. Since my own religious beliefs revolve around a trickster god, I found this book particularly enjoyable and intriguing and it made me think about why Loki appeals to me so much. This is non-fiction, but the prose is never stodgy. It is highly readable and offers plenty of humou ...more
Hyde does a very good job introducing the non-specialist to the world of trickster. He is a fine storyteller, and he draws on an excellent range of tales from a global set of cultures, weaving tales from Ancient Greece and Rome together with indigenous tales from the peoples of North America and Africa. His arguments will not seem particularly revolutionary and new to academics (like myself); for instance, no scholar of Fredrick Douglass will find any surprises here. That Douglass uses trickster ...more
It's taken me about a year to read this, in part because it got packed up in a box while I was living elsewhere, and partly because Hyde doesn't have the most fluid writing style, at least not consistently.
This is an interesting book, and the analysis he provides on the multiple Trickster mythologies of the world are well thought out and well presented, although I'm not entirely sure how much is his work and how much is him re-presenting the work of others; there are an awful lot of pieces where
I started this book almost a year ago and kept returning to it in-between other reads, as it is sometimes dense and academic, so I'd read a section and then let myself reflect on it a while before picking it up again. Hyde is a wonderful writer, mixing spot-on interpretations of mythology, personal anecdote and analysis of contemporary artists, such as Marcel Duchamp, Allen Ginsberg and Maxine Hong Kingston, to posit how these transgressive figures work the same way that "trickster" figures work ...more
An old friend read and had recommended this book several years ago. Then I read part of it, but was distracted and laid it aside. But his initial stories about the coyote and the myth of Coyote stayed with me. Years later, over a bourbon with a couple friends, arguing about the motivations, significance and the praise- or blameworthiness of Snowden's leaks, I raised the possibility that he could be interpreted as an incarnation of the Trickster (and the ambiguous values the Trickster represents) ...more
Úlfdís Járnviðar
This book took me a rather long time to read - partially because I started driving to work and lost my train reading time, and partially because it was particularly chewy!

Hyde brings together quite a collection of thoughts, stories and other information about Trickster Gods, their stories and their role in society and the shaping of our world. I particularly enjoyed his discussion of modern people and how they at times took on the Trickster archetype to change their world. The most notable examp
Mish Middelmann
I came across this book through the wonderful Kadeisha work of Tamboo ( some years ago. Picking it up now, it feels like an appropriate companion in times of difficult change. It speaks to the complexities and possibility of manifesting change when the world seems overwhelmingly resistant and scary to challenge.

Lewis Hyde explores deeply how mischief, chance and the unexpected are not just a fact of life but essential to our survival and growth. So counter-intuitive when
On one hand, this is really interesting. I loved learning more about tricksters such as Hermes and Loki, who I already knew. It was cool learning about Raven and Coyote and others as well. He explained stories in an interesting way, and related them to modern stuff we can better relate to.

But then it got very repetitive. And after a while, it stopped being about tricksters and turned more into a philosophy book (and a biography on Frederick Douglass). Which is interesting, if that's what I wante
There are some absolute gems in the course of the book, some passages and ideas I read several times over because they were so compelling and offered so much creative potential. But there were also long sections that felt repetitive and disconnected —sometimes because I wasn't familiar with a story being taken for granted as common knowledge among readers, but other times because new directions were suddenly taken without clear transitions or context. The book often felt more like a notebook tha ...more
Hyde is a freewheeling scholar and thinker. He collects trickster myths from various cultures—Native American, African, Greek, Norse, Chinese—and compares them to the work and art of Carl Jung, John Cage, Marcel Duchamp, Frederick Douglas, Allen Ginsberg, Maxine Kingston, to name a few. He can be very personable, relating his dream or a hitchhiking story, and very erudite, geeking out on the paradoxes of lies and truth, the sacred and the profane, appetite and immortality, cunning and chance, to ...more
Jeff Van Campen
Oct 24, 2009 Jeff Van Campen rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who loves a good story and the story behind the story.
I've always had a bit of a thing for tricksters. My favorite Greek myths always seem to involve Hermes, and I love a good coyote tale.

Trickster Makes This World is an excellent study that tries to get to the bottom of what makes trickster figures so fascinating.

It is excellently researched and well constructed. Lewis Hyde takes us through the various aspects of trickster and explores each of these aspects in depth. In each case it is a fascinating, wide-ranging discussion. Hyde has put together
In my all time favorite Robert Frost poem Directive there is, I believe, a reference to a Trickster figure. Frost writes about a place where one can be “whole again without confusion”. But to get there he says you must let “…a guide direct you / who only has at heart your getting lost.” After reading Trickster Makes this World I have a better understanding of the paradox of having a guide whose purpose is to get you lost. It’s all about balance. The Trickster, mythic or otherwise, can serve a co ...more
Ian Drew Forsyth
I know academic books are meant to be a bit dry, perhaps overworded, and come to conclusions that are once obvious but they take to be some profound conclusion. But also that said, academic writers will come up with some interesting concepts that get you thinking about the shape of reality. The real problem with this book for me was that for the concept of it: tricksters and comparing them to modern artists/orators, it didn't meet it in style or content. Hyde repeats a lot of ideas that remain b ...more
Melisa Trujillo
An ecclectic and highly erudite mixture of anthropology, mythology and literary theory creates a vision of the world in which those of liminal status living at the edges of acceptable society are recognised as, in fact, essential to the creation of culture and art in all societies: travellers, those who speak several languages, people who belong to many societies and none at the same time. It is an ode to the borders, frontiers, edges of social life, doorways in which humans are free to go a lit ...more
Trickster Makes This World starts great, spinning out some of the implications of various Trickster myths, and linking the Trickster archetype to a whole range of folk stories: Coyote, Hermes, Loki, Prometheus, and eventually, Alan Ginsberg, Frederick Douglass, Krishna, and many others. Hyde draws out the subtleties of Trickster's methods and effects, and it makes for entertaining and thought-provoking reading. Unfortunately, the basic messages of transgression, boundary-crossing, marginalizatio ...more
I have never read anything so fascinating, pedantic, creative, and mind-numbingly boring. I struggled through the self-indulgent anecdotes and unstructured argumentation, but then was blown away by the commentary on James Joyce, John Cage, and Frederick Douglass especially. If you can stand the book, it presents an interestingly modern lens for examining recurring patterns in these ancient stories.
A beautiful and thought-provoking book. Hyde is fearless as he wanders through history and myth in search of the human experiences that fuel the figure of the elusive Trickster. On his path he boldly re-imagines the staples of Greek, Norse, African, Roman, and Native American mythology in eloquent prose. Hyde draws effortlessly from contemporary science, modern art, and historical and literary figures to create in Trickster Makes This World a modern classic.
Jul 28, 2013 Michael rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Michael by: Emily Levine
This is an ingeniously crafted must-read which explores the mythology of the trickster with scholarly accuracy while exploring the real world power and implications of the trickster character with a keen awareness and quick wit.
Hyde has created a wonderful, eye-opening narrative which sets the trickster on the reader, and into the reader, in a way that will oil the joints of the mind for some time to come.
I relate personally to the trickster character at least partly because I am an immigrant. I
Frustrating read, especially once I passed the halfway point (post-"Matter Out of Place").

Didn't talk as much about worldwide trickster figures/myths as I had wanted. Seemed more interested in applying the trickster tropes to real life people, sometimes ((whispers Frederick Douglass)) in a forced way.
But nothing ground my gears quite like that tangent on John Cage. It reeked of "I love this man You need to love this man Let me shoehorn him in here Look at all this commentary Why aren't you lovin
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“Better to operate with detachment, then; better to have a way but infuse it with a little humor; best, to have no way at all but to have instead the wit constantly to make one's way anew from the materials at hand.” 12 likes
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