is an archived string from the
(8/22/00 8:30:05 pm)
I'm trying to write something which may or may not involve female tricksters and shapeshifters and I was curious as to which movers and shakers captivate our posters most....
(8/23/00 4:06:13 am)
The Khandroma's are my favorite female tricksters and shapeshifters together. They are Tibetan and otherwise known as "rainbow-clad, sky-going-goddesses". They are minor deities that travel together in the clouds, usually as part of a rainbow, they mess with the weather and they are especially famous for messing with the hero of folktales....not in a mean way. They like to play little tricks on him, test his heroic qualities. They are also responsible for getting the hero out of a jam (for instance when he is eaten by the Cannibals, the Khandroma trick them into vomiting him up and put him back together again...) The Khandroma are also very keen on helping the hero get together with his bride and assist the couple in their adventures. The Khandroma can be caught as they travel across the sky with a magic rope called a Shakpa and there are also stories of mortal men who capture and then marry a Khandroma (they don't exactly live to regret it, but it's a wild ride for the husbands).
I'll have to hunt for a good reference for the Khandroma stories. My mother is a central Asian scholar and the Tibetan Khandromas are key characters in Llamo, a kind of folk opera that she specializes in...so I grew up hearing all kinds of Khandroma stories, not as an academic, but a kid.
(8/23/00 7:58:30 am)
|Re: Trickster women|
I've always been partial to the Japanese kitsune or fox-maidens. Though strictly speaking a fox spirit didn't have to be female they usually were, and of a mischievous nature to put it mildly. In one well known story a wood-cutter comes across two beautiful women playing a game of Go. He's so fascinated that he has to watch, but after a time he interrupts and the women vanish. The woodcutter soon learns that several hundred years have elapsed while he watched the game.
Another interesting aspect of this to me is that the fox maidens in Japan weren't considered a separate supernatural race but rather simply foxes in another form (Kij Johnson's novel THE FOX WOMAN is built around this). It was assumed that many animal species, like foxes and tanuki (a type of canid), were often shapeshifters and could be very dangerous. In the Chinese versions they're a lot closer to evil spirits or demons.
Edited by Richard at: 8/23/00
(8/23/00 8:23:20 am)
Ah Richard, your post has reminded me of a wonderful little tanuki tale. A woodcutter spotted a badger dressed as a beuatiful young woman, carrying a shamisen. The badger went into a little house and the woodcutter could hear tanuki singing and playing in this seductive voice. Curious, he slipped up to the house, put his eye against a hole in the ricepaper wall and watched amazed to see the tanuki transformed into a woman singing and playing for an audience. Delighted to think the audience was being tricked, the woodcutter stayed there a rather long time until he heard a lot of laughter. Pulling his eye away from the chink in the wall, he discovered a bunch of farmers pointing and laughing at him. The woodcutter turned back to look into the hole in the wall and discovered only the hind end of a horse.
(8/23/00 8:48:49 am)
Ah. I hadn't heard that particular story before, but it certainly sounds like something a tanuki would do.
Edited by Richard at: 8/23/00
(8/23/00 3:08:27 pm)
Your message reminds me of a tale I just read called "Maid of the North," from, you guessed it, "Maid of the North: Feminist Folk Tales from Around the World" by Ethel J. Phelps. The Maid sends some men on impossible tasks for them to qualify for her love and hand in marriage. Sounds almost like some of the Greek heroines/ goddesses too- you may want to look there.
I also found the following in a quick search. Hope it helps!
Trickster Heroines and Their Stories in World Literature
By Marilyn Jurich
Women's Studies, Contributions in, No. 167 (ISSN: 0147-104X)
Greenwood Press. Westport, Conn. 1998. 312 pages
LC 97-45647. ISBN 0-313-29724-X. GM9724 $59.95
Available (Status Information Updated 8/22/2000)
** Description **
"Educators and others seeking folktales with strong female heros will find
this guide useful."
"Dr. Jurich has found in numerous tales a heroine who has not hitherto gotten enough attention, namely the trickster in its female form, labelled trickstar. This is a heroine who is self-sufficient, enjoys games and demonstrates cleverness, initiative, and courage. She turns obstacles into triumphs and has a sense of humor. The trickstar exposes hypocrisies and stupidities in the social establishment and introduces new ways of thinking
and different ways of looking at gender. Dr. Jurich's presentation of this heroine is well argued, well supported and enthusiastically written. This is a book worthy of attention from folklorists and feminists alike."
University of California
Based on the author's discovery of a new folktale type, the female trickster, Jurich's book identifies and celebrates those female protagonists in folktales who use trickery to save themselves and others, to find new directions for their lives, and to declare their individual autonomies,
especially in societies that diminish and oppress women. Through creative strategies depending on verbal facility, psychological acuity, and diplomatic know-how, these women tricksters--better named trickstars--uncover the absurdity, hypocrisy, and corruption in the larger patriarchal society. Through the trickstar's efforts, the "system" is
circumvented or foiled, often enlightened, and usually improved. This multicultural, comparative study reveals universal human traits as well as gender differences between female and male tricksters and realizes the
values and attitudes which shape the trickstar's character and behavior. Trickstars also appear outside of the oral folktale tradition; the author discusses their roles in contemporary feminist revisionist tales, as well as
in mythology, biblical narratives, Shakespearean comedy, novels, plays, and opera.
How the female trickster differs from her male counterpart is, for the first time in folklore studies, illustrated through a comparison of their functions in the narrative scheme of the tale. These functions include the
diverting or amusing role, the morally ambiguous or reprehensible role, the role of the manipulator or strategist, and the role of the transformer or
culture bringer who reforms and improves the nature of her society. Jurich delineates the specific types of tricksters who perform these functions, suggests how "trickstar" tales variously affect listeners and readers, and shows how particular types of trickstar characters contribute to the intent of the tale. Feminist views of the protagonists are analyzed as well as contemporary revisionist tales which seek to reverse negative female images and to present independent women characters who can and do make positive
contributions to society. For the first time in folklore studies, both female and male tricksters are defined and differentiated, their functions are illustrated through analyzing narrative schemes, and the term trickstar,
invented by the author, is used to define and describe a female trickster.
** Table of Contents **
-- Mean and Meaningful Tricks
-- Folktale Females in Patriarchal Systems
-- The Rescuer
-- The Pursuer
-- The Empowered
-- The Province of Trickstardom
-- Overview of Tales: Chapters 1-5
** Author **
MARILYN JURICH is Associate Professor of English at Suffolk University.
(8/23/00 6:08:52 pm)
Thanks muchly for your help- researcher extraordinaire! I know about the Jurich book and am trying to get it through on interlibrary loan.
I find the kitsune outbreaks arresting because of the resemblance they bear to the so-called hysteria epidemics among women in Europe in the late nineteenth century. I believe we have talked about this a lot on the old board. Ellen sent me a few chapters from a fascinating book which included extracts from case histories of kitsune possession- all terribly poetic.
I am especially interested in female tricksters in the Arabian Nights. From my admittedly not very well-informed observation, the tradition of female tricksters doesn't seem to be as strong in more recent European culture- I think the female trickster very much becomes the hysteric- a powerful figure but a figure whose power is nevertheless circumscribed. Does anyone have any ideas about why this might or might not be so?
(8/23/00 11:41:26 pm)
Ah, Karen, trust you to ask interesting questions.
My favorite trickster is Coyote, who is female in *some* Native American tales, though certainly not the majority. I particularly like Thomas King's trickster tales in his collection One Good Story That One. He's from one of the Canadian tribes; I can't remember which one.
Kitsune tales are also favorites. I think Ellen Steiber's novella "The Fox-wife" is one of the most beautiful kitsune tales I've ever read (published in the anthology Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears);
I also love Neil Gaiman's illustrated kitsune tale, The Dream Hunters. And I agree with Richard that Kij Johnson's The Fox Woman is a good read.
Have y'all read Heinz Insu Fenkl's terrific article about kitsune, Dangerous Women? It's posted on the Endicott Studio site, www.endicott-studio.com/fordangr.html
Kerrie, thanks for posting the info on the Marilyn Jurich book. I haven't read that one, and I've definitely got to look it up.
Ellen, we have at least one, maybe two, books about female tricksters in our Arizona library -- but I can't remember the titles. The next time you have a moment, can you look them up? I haven't got anything here in Devon on the topic...other than Lewis Hyde's general book on tricksters, "Trickster Makes This World," which is my absolute all-time favorite. That man walks on water as far as I'm concerned. His book looks primarily at male trickster myths, but his appendix, "Trickster and Gender" is worth as look.
Karen, it *is* interesting that female trickster tales seem common in Asia even today, and uncommon here. Trickster energy, in those Asian fox wife tales, was dangerous but also seductive and compelling. In European popular culture, when one thinks of "dangerous women," we get hysterical types like that horrid film, I'm mercifully blanking on the name, in which Glen Close obsessed on Michael Douglas, of all people, and ends up trying to kill him. Or we get harmless madcaps like Lucille Ball (a trickster if I ever saw one.) The Surrealists built their art on trickster energy -- and one thinks of Leonora Carrington, whose parents try to lock her away in a mental institution, if I'm remembering the story correctly. Trickster is a powerful figure, for all his/her foolishness, and power in women scares people.
It's interesting to think about the times in ones own life when you take on a bit of trickster energy and become playful, clever, unpredicable, wild, sly, capricious. In my upbringing, such qualities in boys were called "high spirits" and in girls earned a smack on the bottom.
(8/24/00 8:25:44 pm)
|Tricksters we prefer|
Hmmm, I was actually thinking of European culutre in the geographical sense of the word- I think trickster women are more common in America now than in Europe- maybe this has something to do with the popularity of Native American and African-American writers like Leslie Marmon Silko, Louise Erdrich and Toni Morrison, all of whom use female trickster figures in their work.
I stumbled across this book by Lori Landay called "Madcaps, Screwballs and Con women: The Female Trickster in AMerican Culture". She covers popular culture from 1850 to the present. And yes, Lucille Ball does feature prominently, along with Anita Loo's "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" and a number of nineteenth century novels about enterprising young mistresses of subterfuge and disguise . Landay argues that Catwoman in Batman Returns epitomises the contemporary American female trickster and that female tricksters haven't featured as prominently as their male counterparts in folklore due to a bias on the part of collectors- any comments? Also, she mentions a novel by Gerald Vizenor called "The Trickster of Liberty" in which Alex, a trickster figure whom the reader is supposed to take for a man, is revealed to be a woman a few pages later. In a sense, the trickster is the ultimate postmodern protagonist- all that blurring of boundaries, all that flitting between the margins and the mainstream, all those nebulous identities- so I think it's curious that more writers haven't appropriated her/him already.
Ellen's "the Fox Wife" is *sublime*. I haven't read the Neil Gaiman tale. I've been thinking about tricksters in connection with the shape-shifting that seems to go on quite frequently in the fairy tales of d'Aulnoy and de Lubert- women who turn into animals or who are part animals seem to have quite an erotic charge in the tales. And of course, Donkeyskin is quite a trickster...
Fatal Attraction- ugh! Hated it too.
(8/24/00 11:39:08 pm)
Karen: Hmmmm, I see your point
-- there *are* a lot of women tricksters in American popular culture
and literature when you stop and think about it, making an interesting
contrast with Europe. Is that because the roles for women are so much
more confining here? (There are three of us American women here in
my English village, and the English women think of us all as so outrageously
"ballsy"...although two of us are really quite soft-spoken
by American standards.)
(8/25/00 3:05:14 am)
I actually found "Madcaps..." as well, but wasn't sure, by the TOC, that it was for this topic- glad you thought it was!
Terri, when you mentioned the Fox Wife, I immediately thought of your book, The Wood Wife, and the Drowned Girl. Would you consider her, and any of the others, as trickster women or was Crow the only trickster?
Edited by Kerrie at: 8/29/00
(8/25/00 11:20:32 pm)
Interesting question! I think Crow was only the proper trickster in the book because he's the only o embodied the duality of trickster -- good and bad all mixed together, culture hero and fool at the very same time. All of the desert spirit folk have tricky qualities, but in general The Wood Wife is a benign, nurturing kind of spirit, while the Drowned Girl was distinctly malevolent, relishing destruction of various sorts (floods, hunts, madness).
If we look at Asian versions of trickster, like the fox-wife, then a case could be made for either the Wood Wife or the Drowned Girl as having trickster aspects (the Wood Wife "marries" a human, as fox-wives do; the Drowned Girl is malevolent and seductive, as fox-wives can be)...but since this book is rooted in American desert myths rather than Asian ones, I would tend to think that duality is an essential part of any trickster designation.
(8/26/00 7:43:48 am)
Gotcha! Well, that leads me to another question: Can Crow be considered a trickster *woman* as well? A couple reasons:
1) You mention duality as a quality of the trickster: good and bad, hero and fool: male and female? Would that mean, with duality, there is really no difference between a male or female trickster?
2) At one point, Crow even goes so far as to mirror Maggie and become a woman. Is *he* a woman at that point, a genderless form that can shift into any form, a man who can change into any form?
There may be other reasons, but these are the only 2 that I can think of. Let me know! I'm very curious now!
(8/26/00 11:47:40 pm)
|As the crow flies...|
Yes, Crow can definitely change gender at will. In this story, "he" was primarily relating to female characters...Maggie, and Anna Navera before her. At this point in time, he spends most of his time in a male form. But I think that there have been stretches of time in the past where he wore a female form, and played his "tricks" on male human beings. His essential nature doesn't change, whether male or female in appearance.
It's a very good question, Kerrie, and has sparked the germ of an idea for a future story. Thank you!
(8/27/00 6:08:37 pm)
|Re: As the crow flies... and as my mind flies...|
Glad I could be that spark! I always did like the word "catalyst!"
So does that mean, then, that any trickster could be a "female" trickster, if duality is a strong part of it?
And as for shapeshifters, I think of:
1) Thumper, the girl who changes into a rabbit.
2) Werewolves, etc.
Ok, I just found an interesting site on all kinds of Were-anythings:
I thought it was odd at first until I found the ones above (under selkie) and others: kitsune, deer women, etc. Here's a few- they even list posts, links, and books:
They look a little odd, but may lead to some interesting thoughts or questions on the matter.
4) The legend of Cerridwen, Celtic goddess of enchantment.
A boy drinks of her potion and she chases after him, each shapeshifting, until finally he shifts into a grain and she into a hen, eating him. She then gives birth later to Taliesin (?) god of poetry, bards, etc.
5) I saw the following title in your article, Terri, on "Feline Folklore"
Deerdancer: The Shapeshifter Archetype in Story and in Trance by Michele Jamal
Do you remember any tales in there about female shapeshifters?
There's also mention of other tales that sound interesting you may want to check out, Karen.
6) And another couple articles:
7) The story of the deer maiden in "The Color of Angels"
8) The Crane Wife- short of it, a man rescues a crane, who later arrives at his door as a woman who makes beautiful cloth, but begs him not to watch her weave.
9) And my absolute favorite, the Swan Princess and her maidens in Swan Lake (both the ballet and the book by Mark Helprin)
I know there are other instances, I just can't think of them right now, so I guess I'll return to packing (Someone help me! Where did all of this stuff come from! I don't remember buying all of these books!).
Have a wonderful night (it's about 10PM now),
Edited by Kerrie at: 8/28/00
(8/28/00 12:52:44 am)
|tricksters and shapeshifters|
I've read a few Native American coyote stories in which coyote is sometimes male and sometimes female...which is definitely where the idea of Crow being able to change gender comes from. But in many, perhaps even most (help, Carolyn, are you still with us?) of the tribal traditions, coyote is very definitely male. Most of the European and Asian trickster legends I know of define each specific trickster as one sex or the other. (Can anyone here think of European tricksters who change their gender...?)
Shapeshifting isn't necessarily an aspect of being a trickster, and certainly not all shapeshifters are tricksters. Sometimes they are shamans or witches, and sometimes they're just...well...shapeshifters. The mythic symbolism in the Wood Wife borrows heavily from both Native American and European myths, but was also invented specifically for the book. In the Wood Wife, *all* the magical characters are shapeshifters to one degree or another. Thumper refers to herself as a shifter, but "only a very little one" ... compared to the mages on the opposite end of the spectrum, who can take on a wide number of shapes, with Crow (as the trickster/fool of the bunch) being the only one who can take on virtually limitless shapes. Crow can invent new shapes at will, while the others are bound to a certain range of shapes unless someone comes along and gives them a new one ... which certain humans can do through art or ritual. (This power that humans have is the reason why even the most distainful of them, like the Drowned Girl, is still fascinated by humans, rather than just ignoring them completely.) Okay -- that's probably much more than you wanted to know about the background mythology operating in the Wood Wife!
(8/28/00 2:57:51 am)
Wow- thanks for the background info- certainly very interesting! I was actually referring to various shapeshifting thoughts because Karen initially asked for "female tricksters and shapeshifters," not just the aspect of tricksters, especially since I looked back and saw most of the replies, my own included, were on tricksters. I actually cam up with more last night before and as I was trying to go to sleep- ideas can be so torturing! But I have to get ready for work, so I'll try to reply when I get home!
Always loving to hear info and knowledge,
(8/28/00 5:54:31 pm)
|Re: Trickster women|
How is it that no one has mentioned Athena? She's a shapeshifter (and a somewhat subtle trickster)in both the Iliad and the Odyssey.
(8/28/00 7:46:35 pm)
|Re: Trickster women|
It's funny you should mention her- she was on my night-time scribble list to add tonight!
A few others- some hokeym some serious:
1) Macha, who shifts into crow form.
2) Epona, who shifts into horse form.
3) Rhiannon, who also shifts into horse form.
4) Diana and Artemis, who shifted into deer, I believe.
5) Morgan leFay, of Arthurian legend
6) Lady Amalthea/Unicorn in *The Last Unicorn*
7) Princess Linet, who shifts into a bird, in *Sword of the Valiant*, a movie about Gawain and the Green Knight
8) Little Mermaid/Ondine/Undines, though only half shifters
9) Mad Madam Mim in *Sword in the Stone* who challenges Merlin to a "Wizard's duel"
10)Isabeau in *Ladyhawk* who during the day is a hawk, and at night is a, well, a lady.
two I'm not sure about:
11) Daphne, who is turned into a laurel tree.
12) Triple Goddess/Fates/Graces- sometimes portrayed as one being that changes form, often a maiden/mother/crone aspect.
::sigh:: That's it for tonight! Hopefully I won't obsess and write in the dark again as I drift to sleep!
Kerrie (who is slowly going mad with less and less net time, but needs it more and more to retain her sanity, as she packs the rest of her life away!)
(8/28/00 9:14:38 pm)
Subject close to my heart, but this summer I've been swamped with deadlines and am now able to get back to the board, and am now once again playing catch-up (or catsup, in some cases!)
Yes, Terri, most NA trickster tales involved Coyote as a male character. In the stories of California's northcoast tribes (Yurok, Karuk, Hupa) Coyote is the Creator of the World and does so in a manner not always for tales in polite company. He is the flawed creator, warts and farts and all. In many of the southwestern tales, Coyote takes on a more sinister role, in that he is the place where witchraft originates, and he is the trickster but more on par with the dark witchcraft element. I was facinated by the idea as the female storyteller as the trickster figure within her own tales,and did my MA thesis on the subject, using Leslie Marmon Silko's Yellow Woman and Paula Gunn Allen's The Woman Who Owned the Shadows and showing how each writer was the feminine aspect of Coyote in her work.
In southeast, (Choctaw, Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, Chickasaw) Rabbit is the trickster most closely aligned with Coyote, because they share some of the same jokester/trickster traits. Rabbit is not so much the creator role and is mostly male.
Terri, our Deer Woman could be seen as a trickster as well, with a more sinister bent to her than what we see from our Northern Coastal brothers and sisters. She is that shapeshifting, darkly magical spirit and symbol of transformation, whether it is positive or negative transformation, causing us to hold up that mirror to the shadow self and see change within ourselves. Whenever the trickster element is present, such as the clowns in the ceremonial dances of the southwest, it causes us to look within and make the changes needed in order to transform. The Coyote stories are also stories of transformation and creation, teaching us not only how NOT to act, but how to not behave in polite society.
But then again, who ever said polite society was the way to go???
I have missed the discussions and will get caught up as soon as I can. I have missed you all as well!
(8/28/00 10:34:25 pm)
Wow, a lot of interesting information in this thread!
There are a European women tricksters too. The fairy tale "Clever Maria" is Spanish, I think (found in Lang), but it's just one variant of a common tale about a girl who is left at home with two sisters by her father and has to outwit a man who wants to seduce her.
I have to admit I thought a tanuki was a purely fairy-tale creature. Does anyone have a link to a picture of a real, live tanuki? I'm going to have to search for one.
Does anyone know why kitsune are always pictured with funny upturned eyes and spots on their foreheads? Cartoon kitsune don't look particularly like foxes to me, so I always wondered.
(8/29/00 6:31:32 am)
There is a lovely print by the artist Yoshitoshi of Tanuki, in robes, leaning soulfully over his front paws. Tanuki bears a likeness to something between a badger and a raccoon but is a memebr of the dog family, Canis viverrinus, nyctereutes. Furry, with a long fuzzy tail and a darkened patch around the eyes that makes him look raccoon like. He is quite the shapshifter though and often resembles physically whatever is driving the story---for instance he has (when he's male--since he can shapeshift into female form as well) a huge scrotum that he drags behind him, or sometimes pulls up and beats on like a drum, and other times wraps around himself like a kimono. He even uses it as a stage for puppet shows and there are tales in which he surprises a hunter in the woods and strangles him with it... Like most tricksters, Tanuki can be gentle, funny and benign and at other times very dark and sinister. (there is a sweet netsuke showing Tanuki wrapped in a lotus leaf, symbollic of Buddhist faith as well as one of Tanuki banging on his huge scrotum like a drum).
As to the depiction of Kitsune's eyes and forehead. I think what you are referring to is a stylistic aspect of Japanese medieval art. The cross eyes of the figures is to describe dramatic intensity and the spots above kitsune's eyes are part of the fashion of the day, when women shaved off their normal eyebrows and painted dark smudges above them as a comestic thing (along with blackening their teeth--since white teeth was seen as a sign of beastiality. There is a great little story called "The Woman who loved Insects" about a young woman noble who scandalizes her family because she is fascinated by bugs and refuses to shave her eyebrows or blacken her teeth...They describe her natural eyebrows as fuzzy catepillars)
(8/29/00 1:38:48 pm)
I found these images when I did a search for tanuki:
Midori, your post under "Male Tales" about the Odyssey made me wonder: does anyone think Penelope, Circe, or Calypso are tricksters?
(8/30/00 6:08:09 pm)
and Butler's Wild Seed
For some reason this discussion keeps reminding me of Octavia Butler's "Wild Seed." The lead female role is a shapeshifter while the male character takes over bodies (killing the owners) to maintain his strength and/or to change form. Both of the characters are immortal and live through several centuries in the course of the book if you haven't read it. Neither of the characters are tricksters, but the dynamics of their abilities are fascinating.
I am not well-read in African mythology, but I have always meant to learn more about the sources for Butler's characters.
(8/31/00 6:06:06 am)
This also reminds of a juvenile fantasy title by Margaret Mahy called "Tricksters". I've seen it, but not read it...are you familiar with it Heidi? Terri did you review at one time?
(8/31/00 2:57:26 pm)
of the day
Hello hello hello.
Sorry I've not dropped in on this thread again for a while- I've been trying to organise this little trip of mine (Little known fact- Australia has the worst bureaucracy in the entire world...).
I'm fascinated by the discussions which have been going on- this isn't an area I know a lot about either. Kerrie, the links were *wonderful* and a great help- thanks muchly! I picked up that Jurich book yesterday but haven't had the chance to look at it yet. I'm not familar with Eudora Welty's work- can I have some more information, oh pretty please?
Here is my trickster of the day- Virginia Woolf's Orlando. Anyone concur/dispute? A particularly exhilirating trickster, I think. IT seems that they're everywhere once you start looking for them.....
(9/1/00 1:00:24 am)
& Woolf's Orlando
I read "Tricksters" for a special class I took at Simmons five years ago. Unfortunately, I had to read it and 40 other books for the class in less than three weeks, so it is a complete blur now. (It was one of the last ones I read.) I keep meaning to go back to it, but I never have. Still, if memory serves me right, the tricksters are three men. Mahy uses fantasy themes quite often and is always an interesting read. I admire her work, but I never have an emotional reaction to it for some reason.
The idea of Orlando as a trickster is intriguing. I need to pull it off the shelf again, too.
(9/3/00 8:03:46 am)
Ends... or Beginnings...
This is a bit in the future, but on "Sound and Spirit" on October 22, the theme is "Tricksters"
Just thought I'd post that!
is an archived string from the
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