Mary Overton's Reviews > Trickster: Native American Tales, A Graphic Collection

Trickster by Matt Dembicki
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's review
Feb 19, 2011

Read in February, 2011

Trickster as a poignant buffoon, fumbling outsider:
"Tonight, you might hear coyote howling across the lake, in the field, or somewhere in the distance. You see, the night creatures are still upset with him, and will not let him join any of their celebrations. Know that coyote is speaking to the Great Mystery, asking for another chance ... " pg 18

Trickster as opportunistic sociopath:
"By and by, Raven heard the sound of a huge splash in the ocean. Looking in the sound's direction, he saw a huge Beluga Whale breaching. Raven watched for a moment, and then called out,
"'My, what a huge whale you are! I have never seen one as large as you! Come closer, so I can get a better look at you!'
"The Beluga swam in closer to the shore.
"'You are huge! I wonder, how wide does your mouth open?'
"The Beluga opened his mouth wide open. Suddenly ... Raven flew ... directly into the gaping mouth! Sssup!
"'Gyak! Hak! Hak! Hak!'
After trying to cough out raven to no avail ... the whale dove into the ocean ... and swam out to sea." pp. 22-24
Raven's impulsive and destructive behavior leads to the death and beaching of the whale. Men come and work to cut off the blubber. Raven takes advantage of their efforts, first to escape from inside the whale, then to trick them out of whale fat. The story ends with Raven's unrepentant triumph. He is without remorse.
"Raven gloated to himself. 'Oh, my! Now I have all this meat to myself and I didn't even have to hunt for it!' So Raven went home with his ill-begotten blubber and meat. The End." pg. 32

Trickster as petty criminal caught red-handed; performs a useful deed as penance:
"Trickster was afraid, for he knew that his brother would be HARSH with him.
"'Great Chief, I ask you for mercy. You have shown me that I am doing WRONG. Let me make it up to you. I will place a GUARDIAN upon your burial site so that all will know to HONOR and RESPECT the dead.'
"Upon hearing this, the Chief let Trickster go. True to his word, Trickster took an owl feather that he had and made an OWL. He placed the Owl in the tree above the Chief.
"'Brother Owl, I charge you with protecting the burial site of this Great Chief and the burial sites of ALL other men.'
"That is why, to THIS day, you will see owls around burial sites, for they are the GUARDIANS of the dead. It's also why you should RESPECT and HONOR the dead, for if you DON'T, you may be turned into an OWL. The End." pp. 51-54

Trickster as foolish, selfish, & short-sighted; his failings cause him to be bested by a hard worker of superior character:
Coyote swallows Horned Toad Lady whole because she will not interrupt her pottery work to reteach him a song he carelessly lost.
"After swallowing her he started home once again. As he came close to the place where he lost the song, he started to think about how beautiful the song was and how impatient he had been.
"[talk balloon from inside Coyote's swollen belly] 'Oh, Coyote, if only you could have been nicer and took time to visit with Horned Toad Lady. She might have sung you that song again!'
"'Oh, how I wish I wouldn't have swallowed her up. I wish she were here to sing me that song!'
"And when he spoke those last words, THEY WERE HIS LAST WORDS!
"Just as quick as she was swallowed, Horned Toad Lady worked hard to find her way out of his stomach. Her sharp horned body got her out of coyote. But now he could not enjoy the pottery song that she was going to teach him. The Old Ones tell us to be careful what we wish for because it might just cost more than we want to part with! The End." pp. 61-62

Trickster as clever survivor who uses the weaknesses of stronger animals both to humiliate them and to get what he needs from them:
Rabbit tricks two Buffalo into having a tug-of-war with each other when each Buffalo thinks he is in a pulling contest with Rabbit.
"They said, 'Rabbit has made big fun of us. Because of this, we will no longer let him drink at our waterhole. Let him die of thirst for all we care.'
"Rabbit heard about what the Buffalo had decided. And soon, of course, Rabbit got a terrible thirst. But then he happened to meet a very pretty young Deer and he got another idea. He asked her to loan her shoes. Then he put them on and went down to the waterhole where the Buffalo were.
"'I heard that you have forbidden Rabbit to drink water here,' he said to them, 'but I suppose you won't mind if I do.'
"Not having very good eyesight, the Buffalo only looked at the tracks that Rabbit made ... and seeing they were those of the Deer, they said, 'Oh, Sister, it's only Rabbit we have forbidden because he played a trick on us.'" pp. 67-69

Trickster as horror - a deadly natural force that is overcome by the goodness & ingenuity of a human:
The youngest of five brothers repairs the accidental injury he as given Meadow Lark, and as a reward is told how see through the trickery of a deadly man-eating Beaver.
"Then the young man struck [Beaver] with his spear and tore him to pieces.
"'There shall never again be a beaver that eats people,' he said. 'Only you have done that,' the young man said.
"The pieces became small beaver. The young man looked for his brothers' bones and when he found them, walked back and forth over them until they came to life. The five men then went home. The End." pg. 110

The futility of a human trying to play Trickster against impersonal forces of nature:
An Indian Princess lies about her virginity when she is offered as wife to Coyote.
"Coyote looked deeply into this woman. He could see she truly was the most beautiful, hard-working, and modest of the women there. But he also saw more.
"'How could you bring a woman here to me that is not pure? I can see this in her! How dare you come to me in deceit! For this you will all pay!'
"Because the woman had deceived her family and came without being honest in her heart, Coyote punished them all. He changed all of the families that were there, as well as the ones
on their way to see Coyote, into pillars of rock. To this day, if you travel down the Columbia Gorge, you can see these pillars. These people were punished for the failings of one individual. The End." pp. 159-160


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