Terry Cross

Lesson 5: The Trickster

Lesson 5: The Trickster

Terry Cross tells traditional stories that help people see their problems and issues in a different light and allow them to find their own answers from the story. He tells a Coyote story that can be seen as a reference as to how a person can view sexual or physical or emotional abuse. He identifies within the story the stages of fear and sadness, then anger, and then taking steps to confront the abuser and assert ourselves to make them stop. We should therefore talk about the Trickster.

All cultures from Native America and around the world tell mythic stories about a character that translates into the name Trickster. Coyote, Blue Jay, Rabbit, Hobomoko, Glook-sap, and Raven are some of the trickster characters in Native American mythology. Trickster is one who through his thoughtless or rash or immoral behavior changes the world, and not always for good. Trickster is always smart and calculating and cunning. He seems to have more intelligence than conscience.

Tricksters often have the power of transformation. They can become anything they want. Raven transforms into a pine needle; In the Terry Cross interview Coyote becomes a baby. Trickster can use this power to become what is needed at the time to further his plans or agenda.

Trickster is also quite impulsive. If he wants to do something he will do it then and there not thinking through any consequences. He always figures if there are any bad outcomes someone else can fix it or it’s their own fault or it’s just not his problem. And, in the case of Coyote, if he should happen to die as an outcome, his friend Fox can bring him back to life.

Trickster is often traveling, not linked to any one people or place. It is much easier to figure things out at the spur of the moment according to how you feel or based on the conditions before you than to learn the laws and morals and values of a particular people. In this way tricksters are often amoral. They don’t have any fixed set of morals and often do what they want to do regardless of traditions.

Trickster will often challenge or ignore the traditional ways of a people and in doing so show us the consequences of such behavior and remind us of we are not supposed to do. He will also, perhaps more importantly, cause those people whose ways he ignores, to transform. Now that their law or customs or beliefs have been broken, they must adjust accordingly. Or perhaps their way will be stronger because it overcame the challenge of the Trickster. A value or belief or moral will not be strong if it is never questioned or challenged.

We must not forget Trickster will do good things as well. Coyote kills monsters that plague people and creates rivers and mountains and Raven sets things right by putting the sun into the sky.

Considering all of the above and reflecting on the meaning of Trickster and his stories, we can certainly ask ourselves: Are we like Trickster in some ways? And if so, what does that tell us about ourselves and what can we learn if we recognize ourselves in the stories.

Look at the Terry Cross interview for the Coyote story where he sexually abuses some young women. Do the elements of that story match any of the concepts presented above? Does Coyote transform himself to get what he wanted? Does he care about the outcomes of his abusive behavior? Does he seem to be a member of the community or an outsider? Does he act on impulse or on careful though and consideration? Dr. Cross does a wonderful job of helping us see how this story addresses abuse and the stages people go through to confront the issue.