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Schematization of the Narrative Structure of the

Trickster Myth

Aron Flam

Department of Cinema Studies

Bachelor of film 15 credits
Film Studies
Bachelor thesis
Spring term 2011
Supervisor: Joel Frykholm

Schematization of the Narrative Structure of the

Trickster Myth

Aron Flam

This is an attempt at finding a form for a universal trickster myth. By comparing studies on trickster
myths, in mythology, psychology, anthropology, literature, and film, with compilations on the native
American trickster myth. A structure for the narrative is extracted by generalization. The purpose of
the essay is to provide a narrative structure that can be used as a point of reference in identifying
trickster myths.

Trickster, trickster myth, trap, trapped, myth, narrative, form, structure, structuralism, universal,
universalist, post-structuralism, incapable, incompetent, incompetence, hero, Winnebago,
Wakdjunkaga, Loki, Hermes, faeces, dirt, amoral, taboo, transgression, scat, scatological, laxative,
poop, libido, licentiousness, sex, sex-drive, theft, lying, deception, trick, trickery, con, penis, gender-
bender, change, sex-change, sodomy, transformation, chaos, randomness, comedy, satire, defy, defile.

SACRED FOOL ......................................................................................... 0  
Schematization of the Narrative Structure of the Trickster Myth ............................... 0  
SACRED FOOL ......................................................................................... 1  
Schematization of the Narrative Structure of the Trickster Myth ............................... 1  
Introduction ........................................................................................... 3  
What is The Trickster? ..................................................................................... 4  
Universality ................................................................................................... 4  
Comedy ........................................................................................................ 5  
What Defines The Trickster Myth? ..................................................................... 6  
Hyde’s trickster .............................................................................................. 7  
The Trickster In Film ......................................................................................10  
Agent of Chaos/Incarnation of Change .............................................................13  
Cleftness ......................................................................................................13  
Crossing The Line Is Taboo .............................................................................15  
Unifying The Pieces ........................................................................................15  
A Universal Myth ...........................................................................................16  
Generalization of the Winnebago trickster cycle .................................................18  
Results of applied analysis ..............................................................................21  
Conclusion ....................................................................................................22  
Reference List: ..............................................................................................23  
Appendix 1 ...................................................................................................24  
Appendix 2 ...................................................................................................25  
Appendix 3 ...................................................................................................28  
Appendix 4 ...................................................................................................29  
Appendix 5 ...................................................................................................31  
Appendix 6 ...................................................................................................33  
Appendix 7 ...................................................................................................35  

The hero myth represents man becoming God. According to Lord Raglan’s1 point nine (9) in his hero
scale we are told nothing of The Hero’s childhood. It is an empty space. My suggestion is that here
hides the myth of the trickster. Before one can be a (Hu)man and receive a divine calling one is an
animal and must learn how to be a (Hu)man. The transition between childhood and (Hu)manhood is a
time when a child, not yet a human since it is driven mostly by instinct and impulses, unconsciously
striving for consciousness, has to learn to control its impulses and curb their instincts in order to
become functioning members of society. In this liminal space I propose that we find the structure of
the Trickster myth.

Few myths have so wide a distribution as the one, known by the name of The Trickster, which we are presenting here.
For few can we so confidently assert that they belong to the oldest expressions of mankind. Few other myths have
persisted with their fundamental content unchanged. The Trickster myth is found in clearly recognizable form among the
simplest aboriginal tribes and among the complex.2

This essay could be called post-structuralist in the sense that it draws heavily on both structuralist and
post-structuralist thought and ideas. However, meaning can be sought through comparison, or derived
from deconstruction, which has been done, and to that, by my betters. The purpose of this essay is
rather to find the narrative structure of the trickster myth, so as to provide an aide in identifying them,
perhaps even a scale by which they could be measured.
The irony involved in trying to disrobe the fool, thus desecrating something supposedly sacred, the
holy desecrator himself, is not lost on me.
What I have done is more easily likened to a huge simplification. What I have attempted to do is take
all the meanings, characteristics, and events of research, on and about, the trickster, and tried to find
the lowest common denominators in order to extract the basic structure of a universal trickster myth.
And I know that this is a fool’s errand since the prime critique against universalism is that it focuses so
much on the similarities that it ignores the differences, something gets lost in the process, and the
whole exercise becomes pointless.
However, even though mine is a fool’s errand, my playing the fool and undertaking this folly, might
teach us something nonetheless. And so be beneficial for all.

Lord Raglan, The Hero - A study in tradition, myth and drama (London: Methuen & Co., Ltd., 1936), 174f.

Paul Radin, The Trickster - A study in American Indian Mythology (New York: Schocken Books Inc.,
1972), xxiii.

What is The Trickster?

How can one study the Trickster? He has been described as mercurial by nature. Like the element, he
is amorphous, ungrippable, and possibly poisonous.
The trickster is an object of study in mythology, religion, anthropology, psychology, and recently in
film. 3 The trickster is a divinity or semi-divine creature that pops up in almost every mythology or
folklore in the world. It is the god of the crossroads, of trade, of mischief, the physical representation
of randomness, and an agent of chaos. At the same time as being short-sighted, impulse-driven, and an
instigator of disorder, he often plays tricks on other God/s and/or nature. He is also the bringer of
knowledge, steals fire from the god/s, and is someone who by breaking the rules creates new ones. His
incarnations are among others Mercurius, Hermes and Prometheus in Rome and ancient Greece, Eshu
and Anansi in Africa, in Norse mythology he is Loki, and so on in culture after culture, in time after
time. Paul Radin explains that “Trickster is at one and the same time creator and destroyer, giver and
negator, he who dupes others and who is always duped himself”.4


“Mythical stories are, or seem, arbitrary, meaningless, absurd, yet nevertheless they seem to reappear
all over the world.”5 I wouldn’t attempt to do this if I didn’t believe that there is some sort of universal
structure, or pattern, for the trickster myth. Claude Lévi-Strauss has been called the father of a
structural approach to mythology. His argument is that even though myths might differ from each
other depending on which place in time they are told, they still hold certain universal similarities.6

He believed that if a phenomenon pops up again and again it can no longer be seen as absurd or
irrational. “So, if the same absurdity was found to reappear over and over again, […] then this was
something which was not absolutely absurd; otherwise it would not reappear.”7

Carl Gustaf Jung studied the trickster as a basic human archetype. He believed that it was part of a
collective unconscious shared by the human race. He surmised that the trickster represented our own

Helena Bassil-Morozow, The Trickster in Contemporary Film (London: Routledge, 2011)
Paul Radin, The Trickster - A study in American Indian Mythology (New York: Schocken Books Inc.,
1972), xxiii.
Claude Lévi-Strauss, Myth and Meaning - Cracking the Code of Culture (New York: Schocken Books,
1979), 11f.
Ibid., 13.
Ibid., 11.

basic nature, the animal us that we had left behind as we learned to master tools and fire. In
psychology the trickster has been referred to as a sort of id, a shadow of our true nature.8

A curious combination of typical trickster motifs can be found in the alchemical figure of Mercurius; for instance, his
fondness for sly jokes and malicious pranks, his powers as a shapeshifter, his dual nature, half animal, half divine, his
exposure to all kinds of tortures, and last but not least – his approximation to the figure of the saviour.9

One thing we can safely assume is that laughter is universal. And comedy is connected to the trickster.
Because comedy is absurd, and so is the trickster.

Freud viewed comedy, satire, and rule transgressions as safety valves for society. The more
hierarchical a society is – the more need for it to have safety valves for outlets of grief against the
system. Letting out steam. He thought it had cathartic and therapeutic effect.10

In ancient Rome one celebrated the feast of Saturnalia.11 It was a religious holiday where normal rules
and regulations did not apply, but were reversed. Slaves were masters and vice versa. Although highly
ritualized, it made fun of the normal order of things. Fools feast in ancient Christendom can also be
seen as an organized and ritualized upheaval of normal social norms. Here a donkey could be named
pope, and faeces flung at the church. 12 Jung thought, “These medieval customs demonstrate the role of
the trickster to perfection”.13

Sometimes trickster rituals, or comedy and satire, is a way for a system of control to make light of
itself and in a safe manner admit to its absurdity, but in other times the trickster succeeds in
fundamentally changing the rules.

Lewis Hyde uses the myth of Hermes from Hesiod as an example. Hermes is the son of Zeus but
conceived, not with another god, but a nyad, and out of wedlock. He is born in a cave and not on
Mount Olympus. Feeling trapped by circumstance, unjustly bereaved of what he sees as his birth right,

C.G. Jung, On the psychology of the trickster figure, trans., Paul Radin (New York, Schocken Books Inc.,
1972), 135-152.
Ibid., 135.
Gordon, R.M. “To Wit or Not to Wit: The Use of Humor in Psychotherapy”, Pennsylvania Psychologist 67,
no. 3, (2007a), 22ff.
C.G. Jung, On the psychology of the trickster figure, trans., Paul Radin (New York, Schocken Books Inc.,
1972), 136.
Ibid., 137ff.
Ibid., 140.

Hermes steals and lies in order to achieve his place among the gods. Hermes has a method by which a
stranger or underling can enter the game, change its rules, and win a piece of the action. He knows
how to slip the trap of culture.14

What Defines The Trickster Myth?

Paul Radin has documented trickster myths of Native Americans by listing different tricksters in
Native American mythology. These are some of the oldest documented versions of the trickster myth.
I use these as a basis for a universal structure since they are the most well preserved originals of a
possible universal structure. If the generalization of this mythic structure holds up against modern
representations of the myth in Hollywood films then maybe there is possible that the form for the myth
is something embedded in us from birth, or at least in the building blocks of human culture. Paul
Radin’s compilation breaks down the myths into their basic plot points.15 Since the myths differ from
tribe to tribe and deity to deity, he has organized the myths into subgroups, and systemized them.

The book is fertile ground for extracting and comprising similarities – the lowest common
denominators – between the different trickster myths. I have used them as background, and also in my
thoughts on ‘Cleftness’ in a chapter below.

Character traits
Others, like Lewis Hyde, has tried to focus on certain basic traits of the trickster such as theft, lying,
hunger, obscenity, and prophecy/power of foresight.

Lewis Hyde argues that certain basic traits of the trickster are shared by all trickster myths and that
certain traits become dominant depending on the trickster’s milieu.

Lewis Hyde, Trickster makes this world - How Disruptive Imagination Creates Culture (New York: Farrar,
Straus and Giroux, 1998), 204.
Paul Radin, The Trickster - A Study in American Indian Mythology (New York: Schocken Books Inc.,
1972), 3f.

Hyde’s trickster

Lewis Hyde lists trickster traits that are generally agreed upon and he compares and contrasts the story
of Hermes with stories of Coyote16, a Native American trickster, and to the life story of the American
slave Fredrick Douglass17, whose life he also compares and contrasts with that of the trickster.
In so doing he delineates certain traits and/or actions from the life of the trickster that defines him as a
• In   the   first   part   of   his   book   Trickster   Makes   This   World,   Lewis   Hyde   discusses   the  
“trap  of  nature”.18    
Here he shows how trickster is trapped by nature by being a slave under the basic need for food. In
order to satisfy his hunger, he must get food, and so he invents lying. Either he invents it as a way of
getting the food, and/or as a means to get out of trouble after having lied or stolen to get it. Hyde
shows that this is true for Hermes, Coyote, Raven, the norse God Loki, and the Zulu trickster

The trickster myth derives creative intelligence from appetite. It begins with a being whose main concern is getting
fed and it ends with the same being grown mentally swift, adept at creating and unmasking deceit, proficient at hiding
his tracks and at seeing through the devices used by others to hide theirs.20

Lewis Hyde shows Trickster to have the following abilities and/or traits:

• Trickster  can  cross  between  the  worlds  of  the  living  and  the  dead.21  
• Trickster   regularly   just   let’s   thing   befall   him,   he   reacts   to   circumstance   rather   than  
from  a  vision  or  goal  of  his  own,  and  if  he  has  a  goal  it  is  selfish.22  
• Trickster  is  the  one  that  can  walk  between  different  worlds  or  planes  of  existence,  be  
it  supernatural  to  supernatural,  or  from  civilization  to  nature.  And  that,  by  embracing  
change,  he  imposes  it  on  other  things,  like  society.23  

Lewis Hyde, Trickster Makes This World - How Disruptive Imagination Creates Culture (New York:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998), 5.
Ibid., 205ff.
Ibid., 17ff.
Ibid., 17-80.
Ibid., 17.
Ibid., 83ff.
Ibid., 95f.
Ibid., 96.

• Trickster   uses   excrement,   faeces,   or   dirt,   to   defy,   and   defile,   authority,   and   on   a  
deeper  level  show  what  is  truly  dirty.    
By defining what is dirty one at the same time decides what is ‘clean’. And that by breaking a law one
demonstrates why it is unlawful, or why it shouldn’t be. It also revolves around the concept of shame.
Trickster has no shame, what is dirty to us, fecal matter, lies, unabashed but unseemly truth, are his
weapons that he uses to shape the world to his liking, or just to show that our world is built on sand,
and that what is true today might not be true tomorrow. By being shameless he can act and behave in a
manner unacceptable for a normal citizen. “If dirt is a by-product of the creation of order, then a fight
about dirt is always a fight about how we have shaped our world”. 24
• The   last   part   of   Trickster   Makes   This   World   deals   with   the   re-­‐shaping   of   culture   by  
Trickster.  How  he  slips  what  Lewis  Hyde  terms  “the  trap  of  culture”.    
Hermes is not content with living in a cave with his nyad mother. If Zeus won’t admit to his birth-right
– he will steal it. Trickster is shown to be boundary crosser. Normal rules don’t apply to him, either he
breaks them on purpose, like Hermes25, or unwittingly, because of unawareness, like Wakdjunkaga,
which literally means “the foolish one” or “the tricky one”, in Paul Radin’s description of the
Winnebago trickster cycle. Hyde also uses the autobiography of American slave Frederick Douglass to
show how he steals to things from the circumstances that trap him – his own voice, namely speech,
and himself, his own body out of slavery.26

Two of Hyde’s ideas about trickster myths poses a problem for the purpose of this essay.
• Lewis  Hyde  believes  that  there  are  no  tricksters  in  monotheistic  societies.27    
If this is true than there can be no universal trickster myth. If the myth is dependent on a polytheistic
or animistic worldview than there is no use looking for it in anything but Bollywood films. However, I
feel that it is enough to mention Asmodeus, the serpent in Eden, in order to contradict him. The
serpent is the trickster that lured Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge. In contrast with Prometheus
theft of fire from the gods, or Loki stealing fire from the gods, he holds up well as a monotheistic
trickster. He, like the two aforementioned and acknowledged tricksters, brings knowledge to human
kind, and is also, like his peers, tortured for all eternity. His punishment was, as we all know, that he
has to crawl on his belly for all eternity. This is also why his tongue is cleft (the question of splits,

Lewis Hyde, Trickster Makes This World - How Disruptive Imagination Creates Culture (New York:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998). 198, 153-199.
Ibid., 208.
Paul Radin, The Trickster - A study in American Indian Mythology (New York: Schocken Books Inc.,
1972), 132.
Lewis Hyde, Trickster Makes This World - How Disruptive Imagination Creates Culture (New York:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998), 9f.

harelips, and doubles will be touched upon later in the essay), which prohibits him from deceiving
anyone ever again. Jung also wrote that:

consider, for example, the daemonic features exhibited by Yahweh in the Old Testament, we shall find in them not a
few reminders of the unpredictable behavior of the trickster, of his senseless orgies of destruction and his self-
imposed sufferings, together with the same gradual development into a savior and his simultaneous humanization.28

Even apart from all the other less obvious examples one can find in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim
folklore one can, once again, refer to what Freud considered to be the primary function of wit, namely
to provide a release for the forbidden.29

• Lewis  Hyde  claims  that  the  trickster  hardly  exists  in  the  modern  world.    
He supports this argument on the folklorist Barre Toelken. He lived with the Navajo for many years
and explains that the trickster tales there are used in healing rituals as a sort of medicine. Lewis Hyde
writes that as entertainment the Coyote tale about the loss of his eyes stimulates to fantasies about an
entertaining disorder; as a medicine it heals after disorder have caused damage. As a matter of fact,
writes Hyde, if one tells the tale without a moral like this or medical reasons one destroys it. Hyde
contends that if the sacred is missing – the trickster is simply not there since he has to be used in a
sacred context.30 This defines the boundaries for the idea that the trickster is a well-spread concept in
the modern world.

To contend this I want to restate that Freud considered comedy, wit, and satire to be cathartic and thus
to have a medicinal purpose.31 Furthermore, I think that ritual is sufficient, and that going to the
movies is a ritual.32

Most of all Hyde demonstrates that the trickster myth is a moral tale. Whether it is used to show that
prevailing morals are wrong, or why it’s wrong to have no morals, where the hero of Lord Raglan’s
scale leads by example, trickster demonstrates by bad example, and shows the onlooker what the
outcome would be, if he where to break the rules. Whether he successfully changes the rules or not, he

C.G. Jung, On The Psychology of The Trickster Figure, trans., Paul Radin (New York: Schocken Books
Inc., 1972), 136.
Gordon, R.M. “To Wit or Not to Wit: The Use of Humor in Psychotherapy”, Pennsylvania Psychologist 67,
no. 3, (2007a), 22ff.
Lewis Hyde, Trickster Makes This World - How Disruptive Imagination Creates Culture (New York:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998), 9ff.
Gordon, R.M. “To Wit or Not to Wit: The Use of Humor in Psychotherapy”, Pennsylvania Psychologist 67,
no. 3, (2007a), 22ff.
Lewis Hyde, Trickster Makes This World - How Disruptive Imagination Creates Culture (New York:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998), 9f.

usually suffers from it. Because either he fails in attaining what he wants, and suffers from that, or he
succeeds, and then, by becoming part of the new order, loses his complete freedom from restraint.

The Trickster In Film

Helena Bassil-Morozow shows the trickster and his story to be alive and well in her book The
Trickster in Contemporary Film. It also starts by describing the character of the trickster as “a man
who feels trapped in his misfortunes”.33 As an example she holds up the Farrelly brothers Dumb and
Dumber where she goes on to describe the protagonists going on a quest. Just like Trickster, in the
beginning of the Winnebago Trickster Cycle, is unhappy with the customs and rules that surround him,
he rebels, he goes on the warpath, but in such a manner, that people perceive him as crazy, and refuse
to partake in his quest. 34

In the first chapter of The Trickster in Contemporary Film Helena Bassil-Morozow provides a detailed
analysis of the principal traits and qualities of the Trickster by drawing on film, literature, and world
myth. It’s a comparative-structuralist analysis of those qualities that also attempts to show their
meaning and/or function in the narratives. According to Bassil-Morozow “the trickster principle
defines the interaction between the world of instincts and the world of rational behavior; […] In other
words, it describes the pitfalls and heights of being human.”35

By applying the Jungian concept of individuation – the process of becoming oneself – together with
Arnold Van Gennep’s tripartite ‘rite of passage’ she explains the structure of trickster narratives – both
archaic and modern.36

It uses examples from among many others The Cable Guy (Ben Stiller, 1996), the Batman trio;
Batman, (Tim Burton, 1989) and Batman Returns (Tim Burton, 1992), and Batman Forever (Joel
Schumacher, 1995), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Milos Forman, 1975), The Mask (Chuck
Russell, 1994), and the Dumb and Dumber (Peter and Bobby Farrelly, 1994) mentioned above.
She comes to the conclusion that tricksters share a number of “common qualities: they are foolish,
rebellious, asocial and anti-social, inconsistent, outrageous and self-contradictory. […] The trickster is
a shapeshifter, he is change personified.”37

Helena Bassil-Morozow, The Trickster in Contemporary Film (London: Routledge, 2011), 2.
Paul Radin, The Trickster - A study in American Indian Mythology (New York: Schocken Books Inc.,
1972), 4ff.
Helena Bassil-Morozow, The Trickster in Contemporary Film (London: Routledge, 2011), 4.
Ibid., 5.
Ibid., 8.

She asserts that trickster challenges order by destabilizing it and that the ancient myths as well as the
modern films raises questions about “incest, excreta, menstruation and transvetism, [as well as…]
theft, forgery, deception, conmanship, [and] murder.”38 She comes to the conclusion that “tricksters
tend to be idiotically and naively brave in their denial of obstacles, constraints and limits, and in their
refusal to accept authority in all its forms – religious, political, metaphysical, social, scientific.”39
Helena Bassil-Morozow shows him to be an inventor, a bringer of knowledge, although most often as
a consequence of incompetence or mischief.

Structure Arch and Motifs

If one compares Lewis Hyde’s description with the traits provided by Helena Bassil-Morozow, one
can clearly see a character. But in order to have his own myth this character must also develop. He
must travel from one state to another. If the trickster has a story it must be about his development.

Helena Bassi-Morozow finds this arch for the structure by using Van Gennep’s “tripartite rite of
passage”. The narrative structure can be described through the three parts of “separation, transition and
incorporation”. It shows that trickster myths starts by something or someone disrupting the normal
state, on which a period of change takes over where normal rules are rendered mote, and finally it ends
with the incorporation of the new state into the old one, thus incorporating the changes in a new
relatively stable state.40

Helena Bassil-Morozow deconstructs the trickster narrative in film by dividing it into motifs that
“pertain to the structure of the narrative”.41

These motifs are:

• Being  trapped    
Regardless if it’s being chained to a stone like Prometheus, bound like Loki, or trapped in ones
surroundings in the modern world, this is something that trickster myths share.42

• Boundary-­‐Crossing    

Helena Bassil-Morozow, The Trickster in Contemporary Film (London: Routledge, 2011), 11.
Ibid., 11.
Ibid., 27.
Ibid., 38.
Ibid., 39.

Helena Bassil-Morozow comes to the conclusion that “trickster’s task in narratives is to drag
protagonists through a series of transformations, which involve pushing them over the threshold and
into the liminal zone”. She also comes to the conclusion that the boundary-crossing theme is
connected to trickster’s function as a psychopomp. Just like Lewis Hyde, she sees the universal
trickster characteristic of being able to walk between the land of the dead and the land of the living. It
is a theme that concerns death and rebirth.43

• Name  and  body    

Lewis Hyde sees trickster’s play with identity in the colour of the skin, Helena Bassil-Morozow sees a
motif in tricksters name and relationship with his body. Neither one is stable and can change during
the narrative.
A plurality of names, no name at all, or a certain name indicating that change has come to claim its
stake, are just as tricksters ever-changing body. From no control over it and its functions to supreme
control, where he can change it at will to anything he wants. Changing sex, or shape, dis-appearing
and re-appearing, as well as causing other characters to lose control are connected to the “loss of
control” that Helena Bassil-Morozow connects to the possession theme common to trickster

• Trickster  must  die    

Whether it is a symbolic death, or an actual killing, after the change is in effect trickster must either be
integrated into the new stability or banished from the grounds.45

• Trickster  is  sexually  driven    

She demonstrates by a variety of examples, but most notably Wakdjunkaga’s of the Winnebago
Trickster Cycle, and Jim Carrey’s characters libidinous inclinations.46

• The  motif  of  trickster’s  connection  to  animals    

His ability to talk to them and be with them is shown to exist in both the Winnebago cycle as in Jim
Carrey’s Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994) and Farrelly brothers’ Dumb and Dumber (1994). Not so
strange when you consider that trickster is a metaphor for becoming human and leaving the animal
state. Trickster is between these two states.

Helena Bassil-Morozow, 46-47; och 49.
Ibid., 52ff.
Ibid., 61.
Ibid., 64.

• “Scatological  references  and  Bodily  Functions”    
These are the terms she uses in dealing with the common trickster motif of dirt, faeces, genital parts,
and so on.47

Agent of Chaos/Incarnation of Change

After studying both Hyde’s and Bassil-Morozow’s ideas about trickster and his tale I have come to the
conclusion that: The myth of the trickster is the story of a man trapped by, and incapable of, dealing
with the circumstances of his surroundings. Wishing to change his luck, he crosses a line and
undertakes a journey. The quest is a foolish one. During his travels he meets tricksters that trick him,
because he lacks the necessary knowledge to see through their deceptions, until he has learned
sufficiently to turn the con on his assailants, upheave the normal order of things, and be recognized as
the legendary fool he is. It is also in accord with the Winnebago Trickster Cycle.

The trickster is change, the random element, chaos. Regardless of whether you want to divide a
benevolent trickster type to trickster and define a malevolent change to the Jungian concept of the
Shadow, trickster is amoral, and like change he does not care what effect it has or what consequences
follow in its wake, it just is. If one asks trickster, one seems to get the same answer as Moses got in the
Old Testament when he asked God what he was: “I am what I am”. And at that moment God was a
talking, burning bush. Demonstrating the shape-shifting ability of said trickster.

Helena Bassil-Morozow also comes to the conclusion that the trickster is the animal human becoming
the idea of human and asserts him as being a culture-hero and as such his story is a “metaphor of
human development”.48

The development of trickster through the narrative is a story of an animal that is driven by his
impulses, troubled by them, he learns from them and can use them in dealing with the world rather
than being used by them and having the world deal with him.


What is a split? It is a question that needs to be addressed since a great deal of trickster myths have
two protagonists, doubles, are split within themselves, or are in fact twins. Claude Levi-Strauss also

Helena Bassil-Morozow, 73.
Ibid., 18f.

came to the conclusion that the split, doubling, and twins were universally recurring patterns in

As is the case in the Winnebago Twin Cycle where the father of the trickster-pair kills their mother,
keeps one of the children and throws the other out into nature.50 Effectively trying to separate the
animal and the human, the good from the bad, is a recurring theme also in the myth of the Greek titan
Prometheus, and his brother Epimetheus, there names indicating their opposite relationship and
meaning, Fore- and Afterthought, in that order.51 And we can see that split in the contemporary film
by the Coen brothers’ The Big Lebowski (1998) where the protagonists Walter and the Dude comprise
“One of the strongest embodiments of the trickster archetype […] together they make up the
archetypical pair of fools”. As do Lloyd and Harry in Farrelly’s Dumb and Dumber (1994), and V and
Eve in Wachowski’s V for Vendetta (2006).52 I will refrain from commenting on the odd synchronicity
that pairs of siblings produced these examples.

Jim Carrey’s trickster in The Mask (1994) literally wears a mask made from wood of the tree that had
held the spirit of Loki. This too, can be seen as a doubling or split, but of the individual, resulting in
two different personalities.

The meaning of this has been heavily debated but for my own purposes it poses another problem. How
can I construct a structure if I don’t know whether I have two protagonists or one?

I have decided view the doubles as one. Regardless if it is the physical separation of two bodies, as in
the Twin cycle, the separation of fore- and afterthought in Prometheus and Epimetheus, Lloyd and
Harry, or if the split resides in one character alone as in the division between Stanley Ipkiss and Loki
in Jim Carrey’s The Mask (1994), the split is in itself the mark of the trickster. That is why twins or
hare-lips are considered magical in some cultures.53 According to Helena Bassil-Morozow “the
trickster principle defines the interaction between the world of instincts and the world of rational

Claude Lévi-Strauss, 25-33.
Paul Radin, 120.
Lewis Hyde, 356.
William A., Ashton, "Deception and Detection: the Trickster Archetype in the Film, The Big Lebowski,
and its Cult Following”, Trickster's Way: Vol. 5 (2009): Iss. 1, Article 5, 7.
Claude Lévi-Strauss, 25-33.
Helena Bassil-Morozow, 4.

The split is trickster’s mark. It is in itself a characteristic of trickster. I presume one protagonist as long
as the protagonist has a split, a physical one, one within himself, or with society at large. The trickster
can be internal or external. The discerning characteristic is the power of transformation.

Crossing The Line Is Taboo

Taboo is a flexible concept. Society is constantly changing, so does taboos. Some are always regarded
as taboo, like incest.55 Others are most often highly inappropriate, like prostate-stimulation. Still others
are just childish, scatology in the form of poop jokes. It is seen as a social faux-pas today to joke about
sexual harassment or to tell racist jokes, but fifty years ago it was not. There are jokes that always
have the tinge of danger as they adress cross-cultural issues, religious tensions, patriotism,
colonialism, poverty, fascism, disability and serious diseases like AIDS or ebola. If taboos are
constantly changing – how could the trickster myth be the same?

Seeing that differing subjects are considered taboo, depending on time and place, the idea of a
universal trickster myth might seem ludicrous. But if one takes the extreme universalist view, “dirt” or
“matter out of place”56 as Lewis Hyde would call it, and what Helena Bassill-Morozow would call
“scatological references”, “bodily functions”, and “licentiousness”57, they can all be labeled as smut. I
refrain from using the term smut and instead use Hyde’s and Bassil-Morozow’ terms interchangeably.

Unifying The Pieces

Based on Claude Lévy Strauss’ idea that something that recurs everywhere in every time cannot be a
coincidence – I think it obvious that the trickster character can and do exist in monotheistic societies
and in polytheistic, as well as in our own secular globalized world.58

The United States and Hollywood being one such society and also the biggest producer of modern
myths for the last hundred years. Also it seems as if though trickster fills the same function in modern
society as he/she/it has done in others. Trickster does not need sacred context in a secular world. The
only thing that is needed is ritual. And film can be viewed as a ritualized context. Watching film,
especially in a movie theater, has ritual overtones. There are do’s and don’ts. Furthermore – if you
label a film a comedy – you have told the audience what rules apply. In other words you have

Brown, D.E., Human Universals, (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1991), 435-439.
Lewis Hyde, 173.
Helena Bassil-Morozow, 73; and 64.
Ibid., 26.

explained, by for instance labeling it as a comedy, that the right response to the transgression of social
taboos depicted in the film, should be laughter.

So, is there a difference between the trickster myths of primitive society and monotheistic/modern
societies? My theory is that the trickster is used as a cautionary tale in any society. The difference lies
in what you fill the form with, rather than the form itself. The trickster has a license, even an
obligation, to break the rules. Successfully breaking a taboo in this context means not only
transgressing a social rule or norm but also to point out the absurdity and/or folly of the rule thus
effecting a rule-change.

A Universal Myth

The critique of universalism is basically that if there is not sufficient evidence underlying the
observation – it becomes meaningless. In this I agree. But even if the idea of the mono-myth is
fundamentally untrue – in that it is not a structure of mind – the teaching of it – and the idea of it – is
out there, being believed in and applied – so even if it does not exist – then at least it is continually
coming into existence.

Hollywood is producing for a global market, so it has a vested interest in both reaching out to as many
different cultural groups as possible. By drawing on the cultural heritage of as many markets as
possible, and homogenizing the world into one coherent mythological langue, they are continually
looking for the lowest common denominators. This is why they hold focus groups and pre-screenings,
and why Joseph Campbell’s theory of the mono-myth, while discarded by the scientific community, is
embraced by screen-writers and work-shops on screen-writing.

But disregarding the mono-myth I look instead on Lord Raglans definition of the hero in The Hero – a
Study in Tradition, Myth and Drama. At least its a point of reference one can relate differing Hero-
myths to, and, unlike the mono-myth, it has underlying observations. Lord Raglan took the myth of the
hero, from different times, places, and cultures, and discovered what he labelled “a pattern” by
concentrating on recurring themes and events in the different myths.59 The myth that scored the
highest points on the hero-scale was Oedipus.

He goes on to match the different hero stories to the pattern to see how well they correspond to it.
Theseus scores 20 points, Jesus scores 19 points60, and so on. “It is with the uniform of the heroes and

Lord Raglan, 174-175.
By my own count.

not with their outfitters that I am at present concerned”, as Lord Raglan stated before presenting his

“Myth is a type of speech. Of course, it is not any type: language needs special conditions in order to
become myth: […] This allows one to perceive that myth cannot possibly be an object, a concept, or
an idea; it is a mode of signification, a form.”62 Within the word uniform the word form is hidden. It is
with form I am concerned. And form is based on action-reaction, or, as seems more common in native
American trickster mythology; reaction-action. By using Paul Radin’s pattern for the Winnebago
Trickster Cycle, and comparing it with studies on Trickster in other cultures and within other fields of
study, I hope to compile a similar “pattern” which I will refer to as “structure” for Trickster myths.

The beauty of the Hero-pattern is that a myth does not have to score full points to qualify – it simply
relates events that it can contain. Paul Radin compilation of trickster myths of native American
mythology charts plot-points as chapter descriptions.

I have taken the Winnebago Trickster Cycle of Paul Radin as basis for a model structure for the
universal trickster myth. I have attempted to generalize from specific act, or a group/series of acts, to
find the general idea behind them. By converting the plot-points into general statements I have tried to
avoid getting stuck in details and differences. I use Lewis Hyde’s ideas of the tricksters general traits
and Helena Bassil-Morozow’ ideas about what defines a trickster and the motifs that make up the
structure of a trickster narrative as filters to find the lowest common denominators.

This leaves a list of general statements that describe the narrative. The 49-point list compiled by Radin
can be found in Appendices. So to goes for Lord Raglan’s Hero-scale and the Winnebago twin cycle.
I have added one plot point that I couldn’t readily extract from the Winnebago Trickster Cycle. Point
(9), synchronistic to the ninth point in Lord Raglan’s scale. Here I place his powers as a psychopomp,
they seemed lacking in the Winnebago cycle but can be found in other stories of tricksters in
Winnebago literature and Helena Bassil-Morozow, Lewis Hyde as well as Jung agrees on it as a trait.63

It should also be mentioned that a trickster myth by no means has to be a comedy, it does not. I have
simply chosen these films since others confirm them as trickster myths and because the Winnebago
Trickster Cycle is a comedy. As for so many of them being twin trickster myths I refer to the previous
sentence and the chapter on Cleftness presented earlier in this essay.

Lord Raglan, 174f.
Roland Barthes, Mythologies, transl., Annette Lavers (New York: Hill and Wang, 1984), 1.
Paul Radin, 90.

There is also a problem of chronology. A pattern that evolves seems to be that the trickster myth is like
a synecdoche. Each chance encounter is like a small version of the whole. The main story is that the
trickster is incapable of dealing with his situation; he feels trapped, and breaks taboos to get out but
since he lacks knowledge he doesn’t really know what he wants and gets fooled until he learns.
Everyone he meets by chance is another trickster, and he must be duped by them, learn from his folly,
and turn the trick on them in order to succeed or survive. The characters he meets are representatives
of the orders of this world and by learning from their tricks he turns the con on them, fooling them
and/or overturning them in turn.

Generalization of the Winnebago trickster cycle

1. Trickster  feels  trapped  by  circumstance  (social  environment  and/or  the  nature).  In  his  
trap   he   breaks   taboos,   by   being   inept,   displaying   incompetence   or   lack   of   knowledge  
and   can’t   abide   by   the   rules   and/or   laws   that   govern   the   space   he’s   in.   He   decides   to  
undertake   a   journey   or   go   on   a   quest.   It   is   a   hopeless   mission,   a   fool’s   errand,   and  
recognized  as  such.  In  doing  so  he  takes  on  responsibility  but  it  is  the  responsibility  of  
his  own  folly.  
2. He   undertakes   the   journey,   which   will   lead   him   to   unknown   territory   where   he  
encounters  people  and/or  animals  in  situations  unknown  to  him;  he  will  fail  in  most  
of  his  doings  and  learn  from  them.  He  is  still  trapped  by  his  own  nature  and  driven  by  
it   to   invention   of   trickery.   It   is   his   misguided   ambitions,   his   poor   control   of   himself  
and  his  desires,  that  will  lead  him  into  situations  where  his  lack  of  control  continually  
makes   him   fail   or   himself   become   duped.   His   body   is   behaving   strangely   through   the  
3. Trickster  takes  on  responsibility  that  he  will  ultimately  fail  to  keep  and  he  is  chased  
by  the  wronged  party  and  gets  lost.  
4. While  lost  trickster  performs  act  of  pointless  stupidity  that  leads  to  insight  about  self.  
He   competes   in   pointless   exercises   that   amount   to   nothing.   Against   nature,   or  
against  people/creatures  he  meets  and  they  usually  outwit  him.  In  attaining  nothing  
the  trickster  gains  insight.  This  mode  of  storytelling  will  repeat  itself  throughout  the  
narrative.   Others   often   fool   trickster   through   his   own  
stupidity/incompetence/ambition  –  they  are  connected  since  his  ambitions  are  follies  
–   but   when   he   discovers   this   he   turns   the   trick   into   his   own   and   uses   it   to   dupe  

others.   Also,   all   of   his   chance   encounters   are   with   other   tricksters   and   they   might   be  
animals,  monsters  and/or  creatures  that  are  not  human.  
5. Tries  to  satisfy  his  base  nature  by  trickery/trance  and  gets  others  to  lose  control  but  
is   himself   tricked   of   the   spoils   because   of   loss   of   control.   He   can’t   control   the  
situation  he  has  created.  The  situation  may  involve  animals.  
6. Trickster  is  plagued  by  bodily  functions  and  performs  scatological  reference  in  order  
to  attain  control  but  he  fails  since  he  can’t  understand  his  own  nature.  
7. He  performs  one  or  several  failed  acts  of  uncontrolled  libido.  
8.  Trickster   performs   a   ludicrous   and   impossible   act,   which   ultimately   gets   him   into  
trouble  with  foe,  which  he  then  gets  out  of  through  trickery/deception.    
9. Shows  proficiency  in  dealing  with  death,  either  by  communicating  with  the  dead  or  
by  handling  of  the  dead,  which  includes  ghosts  and  the  undead.  
10. Trickster   changes   sex   and/or   shape   and   performs   acts   of   gender   bending   usually  
involving  deceit  of  others  to  attain  his  own  goals.  
11. Trickster  has  a  scatological  episode  in  which  he  is  sullied  and  performs  dirt  work.  
12. Fooled  by  a  deception,  he  uses  what  he  has  learned  to  use  the  trick  to  trick  others.  
But  he  loses  the  spoils  of  his  con  and  is  trapped  once  again  by  circumstance.  
13. After  being  trapped  by  social  environment,  in  another  plane,  physically  he  once  again  
deceives  people  into  helping  him  get  out  of  the  trap  but  this  time  he  rewards  those  
who  help  him  and  give  them  magical  gifts  and/or  inventions.  
14. Trickster   then   decides   to   exact   revenge   and/or   finish   the   mission   on   foe   for   earlier  
troubles   and   this   time   he   uses   scatological   reference   and/or   bodily   function   to   his  
advantage  and  he  succeeds  but  
15. In  his  victory  he  goes  too  far    
16. And  loses  spoils  to  new  adversary  who  outwits  him    
17. Which  leads  to  trickster  chasing  new  adversary  but  to  no  avail  and  trickster  gets  lost  
and/or  trapped  and:  
18. Has  a  libidinous  adventure  which  ends  in  emasculation  and/or  curbing  of  sex  drive  
19. But   the   curbing   or   the   attainment   of   control   of   “licentious   libido”   has   beneficial  
effects  and  leads  to  fruits  of  labour.  
20. Trickster  (is  led  to  a  sanctuary  and/or  civilization  and)  learns  what  he  needs  to  know  
to  get  what  he  wants,  (and  maybe  find  out  what  he  really  wants)  

21. And  in  attaining  knowledge  he  uses  it  to  exact  revenge  on  adversary  with  scatological  
reference  and/or  bodily  function  and  in  so  doing  upheaves  the  former  social  orders  
and/or   nature   of   things,   which   adversary   has   been   representative   of,   and   bestows  
gifts  on  all  mankind  by  reshaping  nature  and/or  social  order  to  better  suit  all.  
22. Is   recognized   and   the   troublesome   part   of   him   is   banished,   symbolically   killed   or  

Results of applied analysis
Below are listed the results from applying the pattern to four movies. I have chosen Jack Black’s Year
One (2009) as my own example of a modern trickster myth. It is a clear moral twin trickster myth that
display many of the lowest common denominators discussed above in the essay. I have then admitted
two of the films Helena Bassil-Morozow uses as examples of modern trickster myths, Farrely’s Dumb
and Dumber (1994) and Jim Carrey’s The Mask (1994). I especially wanted to include the mask since
it is the only one of the films that isn’t a twin trickster myth where the mark of the trickster is so
clearly expressed in the internal split between Stanley Ipkiss and The Mask. The Coen brothers The
Big Lebowski (1998) might seem the odd one out in comparison but is if scrutinized not only an
excellent example of what is written above but also asserted to be a trickster myth by a separate

Jack Black’s Year One (2009)

Scores 19/2265

Farrelly’s Dumb and Dumber (1994)

Scores 17/2266

Coen’s The Big Lebowski (1998)

Scores 18/2267

Jim Carrey’s The Mask (1994)

Scores 20/2268

William A., Ashton, 7.
Appendix 4
Appendix 5
Appendix 6
Appendix 7


There are obviously too few observations to make any claim to a universal pattern for the trickster
myth. But as I set out on a fool’s errand I deserve nothing but a fool’s reward.
Still the pattern works as a filter applied to the content of study. All the films contained almost all the
plot devices and used them repetitiously. And I believe that with more observations and adjustments
to the list it could amount to, if not a universal one, then at least a lowest-common-denominator
trickster myth. I don’t think it would be useful as a tool for understanding trickster myths but it might
be a tool for identifying them and measuring their trickster-mythness.
There is a problem with chronology regardless of amount of observations. Even though I managed to
get his clothes off I think I might have undressed him in the wrong order and that makes it impossible
to recreate the dress. What is clear to me after performing this exercise on a few films is that the
incidences can start independently of each other and span out over several other events and/or each
other. If one were to expand on the idea it would be better to use more archaic trickster myths than just
the Winnebago Trickster Cycle. Generalize as many as possible and weed out the lowest common
denominators, and then testing it against more modern expressions. So more observations are needed,
both in the back- and the foreground. Regardless, the theoretical discussion provided much more
insight than the pattern itself I think. There is obviously a problem with universalism.
The trickster myth deserves something better than a plot point summary robbed of its details and
specifics. But I set out to find a form, not meaning, and a suit does not have a soul.
But even as a suit, it desperately needs both adjustments and a lining. But that will have to be the
object of another study.
I also regret using only comedies. I don’t think I would have gotten a better result, the observations
would still have been too few, but maybe some other insight.
And I don’t believe it needs to be a comedy, after all, a joke is nothing but a familiar premise – with an
unexpected outcome.
After performing this stupid and pointless exercise I feel even stronger than before that the trickster
myth has at least one recurring pattern. And that is the synecdoche. The arch of the trickster myths are
repeated in the events that trickster encounters on his journey. He is deceived and deceives until he
attains sufficient knowledge to master the situation.

For myself, I have not yet done so, but I hope to have served as a bad example, at least, of what not to

Reference List:

Dumb and Dumber (Bobby and Peter Farrelly, 1994)

The Big Lebowski (Joel and Ethan Coen, 1998)

Year One (Harold Ramis, 2009)

The Mask (Chuck Russell, 1994)

Ashton, William A.. “Deception and Detection: the Trickster Archetype in the Film, The Big
Lebowski, and its Cult Following”. Trickster's Way: Vol. 5 (2009): Iss.1, Article 5.

Barthes, Roland. Mythologies. Translated by Annette Lavers. New York: Hill and Wang, 1984.

Bassil-Morozow, Helena. The Trickster in Contemporary Film. London: Routledge, 2011.

Brown, D.E., Human Universals, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1991.

Gordon, R.M. “To Wit or Not to Wit: The Use of Humor in Psychotherapy”, Pennsylvania
Psychologist 67, no. 3, 2007.

Hyde, Lewis. Trickster makes this world - how disruptive imagination creates culture. New York:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998.

Jung, C.G.. On the psychology of the trickster figure. Translated by Paul Radin. New York:
Schocken Books Inc., 1972.

Lévi-Strauss , Claude. Myth and Meaning - Cracking the Code of Culture. New York: Schocken
Books, 1979.

Radin, Paul. The Trickster - A study in American Indian Mythology. New York: Schocken Books Inc.

Raglan, Lord. The Hero - A study in tradition, myth and drama. London: Methuen & Co., Ltd., 1936.

Appendix 1
Lord Raglan’s Hero-scale

Appendix 2
Winnebago Trickster Cycle as compiled by Paul Radin, with my commentary in parenthesis.
1. Trickster  cohabits  with  woman  before  war  party  (breaking  taboo)  
2. Trickster   wishes   to   go   on   warpath   alone   (taboo   –   in   that   it   is   both   impossible   and  
3. Trickster  discourages  his  followers  from  accompanying  him  on  warpath  (By  throwing  
sacred  warbundle  and  and  arrows  into  the  ground  and  stepping  on  them.  He  claims  
that  he  alone  can  go  to  war  –  and  that  nobody  else  can  –  not  even  his  weapons  can  
accompany   him.   This   is   of   course   folly   –   and   those   that   he   hasn’t   succeeded   in  
discouraging  leaves  at  this  point.  This  to  would  constitute  breaking  a  taboo.)  
4. Trickster   kills   buffalo   (Driven   by   hunger,   as   Lewis   Hyde   would   point   out,   trickster   kills  
Buffalo.   Since   he   has   thrown   away   his   weapons   he   is   forced   to   use   trickery.   This   trick  
used   to   kill   the   Buffalo   is   a   reassertion   of   the   Winnebago   preferred   way.   Thus,  
trickery   that   inspires   new   rules.   This   could   be   seen   as   his   hunger   forces   him   to   think.  
Also:  it’s  trickery.)  
5. Trickster  makes  his  right  arm  fight  his  left  arm.  (Folly)  
6. Trickster  borrows  two  children  from  his  younger  brother.  (Takes  on  responsibility)  
7. Children  die  because  trickster  breaks  rules.  (Fails  to  keep  responsibility)  
8. Father  of  children  pursues  Trickster.  (being  chased  for  failing  with  his  responsibility)  
9. Trickster  swims  in  ocean  inquiring  where  shore  is.  
10. Trickster  chases  fish.  
11. Trickster   mimics   man   pointing.   (In   fact   –   it   is   a   tree-­‐stub   that   Trickster   mistakes   for   a  
man  and  decides  to  compete  with  in  pointing.  So  not  only  does  he  not  se  the  world  
for   what   it   is   –   he   competes   in   pointless   exercises   that   amount   to   nothing   –   it   is   also  
here   that   he   understands   why   they   call   him   the   foolish   one.   So   in   short   folly   that  
leads  to  insight  into  self)  
12. Dancing  ducks  and  talking  anus.  
13. Foxes  eat  roasted  ducks.  
14. Trickster  burns  anus  and  eats  his  own  intestines.  (Learns  to  control  hunger?)  
15. Penis  placed  in  a  box.  (sexuality)  
16. Penis  sent  across  water  (Trickster  rapes  a  chiefs  daughter  but  is  foiled  by  a  witch  and  
is  not  able  to  complete  the  intercourse)  

17. Trickster  carried  by  a  giant  bird.  (Wants  to  be  able  to  fly  and  tricks  bird  to  carrying  
18. Women  rescue  trickster  (The  bird  gets  rid  of  trickster  by  dropping  him  into  a  tree  but  
women  cut  down  the  tree  because  trickster  deceives  them  into  believing  that  there  is  
a  big  racoon  in  the  tree.)  
19. Trickster  and  companions  decide  where  to  live.  (find  a  place  to  dwell)  
20. Changed  into  a  woman,  trickster  marries  chiefs  son  (cross-­‐dressing  or  as  I  prefer  to  
call  it,  gender-­‐bending.)  
21. Last   child   of   union   cries   and   is   pacified.   (Jesting   power   –   the   chiefs   son   cries   for  
impossible  things  to  play  with  –  and  has  to  be  placated.  Radin  assures  us  that  this  is  
an  irony.  In  that  case  this  is  making  light  of  power  and  status.)  
22. Trickster  visits  wife  and  son.  (Equating  taking  on  responsibility  with  trouble.)  
23. Trickster  and  the  laxative  bulb  (excrement)  
24. Trickster  falls  in  in  his  own  excrement  (excrement)  
25. Trees  mislead  trickster  in  finding  water.  (disharmony  with  nature)  
26. Trickster  mistakes  plums  reflected  in  water  for  plums  on  tree.  (mislead  by  hunger  –  
mistrust  of  senses.)  
27. Mother  seeks  plums  while  Trickster  eats  children  (Trickery.  (I  see  a  pattern  here,  or  at  
least   a   mode   of   storytelling.   That   is   that   trickster   is   often   fooled   by   his   own   stupidity  
but   when   he   discovers   this   he   turns   it   into   his   own   con   and   uses   the   what   he   has  
learned  to  fool  others.))  
28. Skunk  persuaded  by  Trickster  to  dig  hole  through  hill.  
29. Mothers   lured   in   hole   by   Trickster   and   eaten.   (Hunger,   but   they   don’t   get   eaten.  
What  happens  is  listed  below.)  
30. Tree  teases  trickster  who  gets  held  fast  in  fork.    
31. Wolves  come  and  eat  Trickster’s  food  under  tree.  (He  gets  foiled  of  his  spoils.)  
32. Flies  in  elk’s  skull  lure  Trickster,  who  gets  caught  in  elk’s  skull.  (Tricked  by  nature.  It  
has  to  do  with  dancing  and  singing.)  
33. People   split   elk’s   skull   off.   (After   being   tricked   into   freeing   Trickster   –   he   bestows  
them   with   the   remains   of   the   elk’s   skull   which   has   medicinal   powers   –   it’s   the   old  
hero  bestows  boon  on  fellow  man  from  Campbell’s  monomyth-­‐theory.)  

34. Trickster   changes   self   into   deer   to   take   revenge   on   hawk.   (He   catches   hawk   by   luring  
him  into  his  rectum  and  then  clench  hawks  neck  so  that  he  can’t  get  loose.)  
35. Bear  lured  to  death  by  trickster  (Trickster  uses  his  new  tail  –  the  hawk  lodged  in  his  
anus  –  to  get  into  bears  anus  and  kill  him.)  
36. Mink   outwits   Trickster   and   gets   bear   meat.   (Here   trickster   first   actually   tries   to   be  
nice  and  invites  mink  ,  but,  letting  his  hunger  get  the  better  of  him,  challenges  mink  
for  a  race  over  the  food,  which  he  loses.)  
37. Trickster  pursues  mink  in  vain.  
38. Chipmunk  causes  trickster  to  lose  part  of  his  penis.  
39. Discarded  pieces  of  penis  thrown  into  lake  and  turn  into  plants.  (restrained  sexuality  
turning  into  fruits  of  labour?)  
40. Coyote  leads  Trickster  to  village.  
41. Trickster  imitates  muskrat  who  turns  ice  into  lily-­‐of-­‐the-­‐valley  roots.  
42. Trickster  imitates  snipe’s  method  of  fishing.  
43. Trickster  imitates  woodpecker’s  way  of  getting  bear.  
44. Trickster  imitates  pole-­‐cat  in  getting  deer.  
45. Mink   soils   chief’s   daughter   as   Trickster   planned.   (Here   Trickster   exacts   revenge   on  
mink  for  fooling  him  earlier  –  he  does  this  by  giving  mink  a  laxative  which  causes  him  
to   defecate   while   courting   the   chief’s   daughter.   This   is   in   other   words   trickery   that  
leads  to  scatology  and  embarrassment  for  his  old  foe.)  
46. Coyote  is  being  duped  into  being  tied  to  a  horse’s  tail.  (Tricks  an  old  foe)  
47. Trickster  removes  obstacles  on  the  Mississippi.  (Changes  nature  to  mans  benefit)  
48. Waterfall  is  forced  to  fall  on  land  by  trickster.  (Changes  nature  for  mans  benefit)  
49. Trickster  eats  final  meal  on  earth  and  retires  to  heaven.    

Appendix 3
Winnebago Twin cycle

Appendix 4

Jack Black’s Year One (2009)

Plot point summary applied to universal trickster structure.

(1) Zed is the least competent hunter and Oh is the most incompetent gatherer in a harmonious, apart
from the pair who are marked as different, pre-historic society. They are shown as incompetent and/or
different by failing to hunt, failing at getting the women they want, failing at displays of masculinity.
Zed eats from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil thus breaking a tribe taboo, the shaman and
Marlak, the head hunter, banish him from the tribe. Zed claims to have the power of knowledge of
good and evil, also he decides to travel beyond the end of the world. After Zed burns down the village
by accident Oh decides to go with Zed on his journey to discover what the world has to offer.

(2) (3) (5) (6) Trickster encounter Cain and Abel through a failed attempt at hunting. Cain kills Abel
and dupes Zed and Oh that they must escape with him or else be accused of killing Abel. Failing to
keep responsibility of knowing good from evil, by aiding Cain in concealing Abel’s body.

(7) Afterwards, Zed and Oh find that their failed love interests from their former tribe have been
captured and are being sold into slavery. (5) They try to buy the girls' freedom, but get tricked by Cain
who ends up selling Zed and Oh.

(5 cont.) Sodomites attack and take the slaves prisoner. Zed and Oh escape. And decide to rescue the

(8) While seeking their love interests they come to a mountain and find Abraham about to kill his son
Isaac. Zed stops them, claiming that the Lord sent him to do so.

Zed and Oh head off for Sodom after Abraham threatens to circumcise them.

(10) They are captured in Sodom and has a near sex reversal situation. But Cain saves them from
being sodomized. Not of own accord, trickster reminds him that they know his secret – that he killed

The two were sold by Cain as slaves but Cain apologizes and offers them food. They become guards.

They see the princess. The princess invites Zed to a meet. (7) He wants intercourse – she wants to
overturn higher orders.

(7) Inside the palace, Zed sees love interests serving as slaves. (10) Oh is shape-shifted into effeminate
golden statue and forced to follow the very effeminate and has gender-bending adventure.

(1) Princess asks Zed to enter the Holy of Holies, and tell her what it is like, thinking that Zed is the
"Chosen One." Inside the temple, Zed encounters Oh, who is hiding from the high priest who has
sodomized him (10). There, they get into an argument and are then imprisoned for going inside the

temple. While imprisoned Oh has a scatological episode (11), he pees in his hair hanging upside down,
and Zed discovers (invention) that piss is good for the hair (13).

(12) The two are sentenced to be stoned to death but Zed gets the people on his side as the chosen one
but loses control of the situation and they are sentenced to hard labor until they die from work.

The king then announces that he will be sacrificing his daughter and two virgins (love interests) as a
gift to the gods.

(13) Zed interrupts the ceremony, claiming he is the "Chosen One” (20)(21).
(14) A riot starts. (18) Oh saves love interest. Oh and loveinterest lay with each other inside the
palace, which not only consummates their relationship, but also means that love interest cannot be
sacrificed. (19) They then come out to help (15)(16) Zed fight the soldiers (including Cain). The
crowd kills all the leaders and proclaim (22) Zed as the Leader being the "Chosen One", invents
clapping, brings rain, invents individualism. (22) Zed turns this down, letting The Princess rule, and
leaves this world (to go to Egypt). (22) Oh becomes the leader of the village where the whole
adventure started and is recognized as smartest man in village.

The only real point that is missing is (9). (4) runs through-out and is represented in a number of
instances leading up to the show-down in the Holy of Holies, and (17) can also be found in any of the
pointless chase scenes that occur during the brouhaha from the revolt and onwards. Jack Black’s Year
One (2009) scores between 19 and 21 points.

Appendix 5

Farrelly’s Dumb and Dumber (1994)

Plot point summary applied to universal trickster structure.

(1) Lloyd Christmas is an incompetent limo-driver. His passenger, Mary, becomes his Prime love
interest on her way to the airport. Prime love interest intentionally leaves a briefcase in the airport
terminal. It is ransom money for her kidnapped husband. Lloyd, lacking this knowledge, rushes in and
grabs the case thinking she has accidentally left it.

(1) Lloyd's buddy, Harry Dunne (together they are trickster), is an incompetent pet groomer who
drives a van converted into what looks like a dog.

(2) Lloyd convinces Harry to break out of their loveless, and luckless, lives and drive to Aspen to find
Prime love interest and return the briefcase. On their trail are two foes, those thwarted by Lloyd’s
stupidity at the airport. One of the foes has an ulcer.

(3) Leaving on their journey in the huge dog-like vehicle Harry and Lloyd stop at a roadside diner
where Harry offends a redneck by accident. After a confrontation Lloyd offers to buy redneck and his
friends a round of beers, but then trick them into paying for their meals.

(3 cont.) They are chased away.

(6) Lloyd pees into empty beer bottles in the vehicle. They are pulled over by a motorcycle cop who
mistakes bottles for alcohol and drinking the pee he gets so outraged that he chases them off.

(4) Foe catches up with them and deceives them into giving him a lift. He intends to find out what they
know and kill them. At roadside restaurant, "Dante’s Inferno", the three men engage in trickery with
chili-fruit. Foes ulcer and Lloyd tries to cure him with the rat-poison pills Foe has intended to use on
Lloyd and Harry. Foe dies.

(7) Later, at a gas station, Harry meets a love interest, while (10) Lloyd is having a gender-bending
type situation with original tricked redneck. (11) Harry sets his foot on fire and runs into the bathroom
and in an act of scatological reference, he puts out the flames on his foot in the toilet while
simultaneously knocking out red-neck and accidentally saving Lloyd from homosexual rape.

(13) They get lost. They have no money. They have no gas. They argue. They split up.

(13 cont.) Lloyd returns riding a mini-bike, he has performed the “selling the dead bird trick” again
but this time he has given a magical gift to the kid “in town” in the form of a dog-like van.

(14) During a stupid fight the briefcase opens revealing a large amount of cash inside. They receive
the spoils but write I.O.U.’s for the spent money.

(14) (15) They check into an expensive hotel. Purchase a Lamborghini Diablo. They get full-body


(7) (16) In order to attend a society function hosted by Prime love interest. They wear candy-colored
tuxedos. They quarrel over her interest. Neither one gets her but this is ongoing from now til end.

(6) (11) Lloyd puts laxatives in Harry's drink to foil attempt at getting Prime love interest. He has
diarrhea and his plans with Prime love interest are foiled. He is delayed back to the hotel where he
meets secondary love interest. (20) She has information for him. But this is off-camera.

Show-down in their hotel room. Prime love interest comes to claim the briefcase from Lloyd. Tells
him she’s married (18) Main adversary enters with gun. Lloyd and Harry quarrel over Prime love
interest. They are both out of luck. (19) The FBI shows up in the nick of time to save the day with (21)
secondary love interest who is also undercover Fed.

Prime love interest is reunited with her kidnapped husband.

(22) Lloyd and Harry are recognized.

The final scene shows Lloyd and Harry on the road walking back home. They are banished. A busload
of bikini-clad girls pulls up beside them. They mindlessly decline an offer to join the girls on their
bikini tour as "oil boys". Can be seen as turning down heaven for not recognizing it.
They wander on.

This film scores 17/22.

Appendix 6

Coen’s The Big Lebowski (1998)

Plot point summary applied to universal trickster structure.

(1) Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski returns home to be assaulted by two thugs who has confused him for
another Lebowski. After beating him and urinating on his rug, they realize they are looking for a
different person with the same name, and they leave. (2) Walter Sobchak, his friend and bowling
teammate, insists The Dude to seek compensation for the rug from the other Jeffrey Lebowski.

Lebowski, a millionaire, refuses The Dude's request. Labels The Dude as outcast. The Dude steals a
carpet by trickery.

(7) The Dude meets Bunny Lebowski, the other Lebowski's young and promiscuous trophy wife,
while leaving.

(3) Other Lebowski contacts The Dude. Bunny has been kidnapped. He wants The Dude deliver the
million-dollar ransom.

(6) New thugs enter The Dude's apartment, knock him unconscious, and steal his new rug.

(6) (8) When Bunny's kidnappers call to arrange the ransom exchange, Walter tries to convince The
Dude to keep the money and give the kidnappers a briefcase filled with dirty underwear.

(11) The kidnappers escape with the scat decoy.

(12) Trickster is left with real suitcase. Later that night, The Dude's car is stolen, along with the
briefcase filled with money.

(13) The Dude visits other Lebowski's daughter, Maude, at her art studio. He learns that Bunny is a
porn star working for Jackie Treehorn and that she believes Bunny faked her own kidnapping.

(14) She asks The Dude to recover the ransom, as her father had withdrawn it illegally from charity.

(15) Other Lebowski confronts The Dude over the missing ransom money. He shows The Dude a
severed toe that he claims belongs to Bunny.

(16) (17) The Dude receives a message that his car has been found. Mid-message, three German
nihilists invade the Dude's apartment, identifying themselves as the kidnappers. They interrogate and
threaten him for the ransom money.

(18) (7) The Dude returns to Maude's studio, he learns the German nihilists are Bunny's friends.

(4) (5) The Dude gets his car back after scatological reference. He and Walter track down the
supposed thief, a boy. Their confrontation with boy is a pointless act of stupidity, and the pair leave
without getting any money or information.

(12) Jackie Treehorn's thugs take The Dude to Treehorn. Treehorn inquires about the whereabouts of
Bunny, the money. He promises the Dude a cut. Treehorn then tricks The Dude and poisons him.

The Dude is arrested and is then placed in front of the police chief of Malibu. The police chief
physically assaults The Dude and he banishes the Dude from Malibu.

Thrown out of a cab and finding his apartment destroyed.

(18) (19) The Dude meets Maude Lebowski, who seduces him.

He learns that her father has no money of his own. Maude's late mother was the rich one. She left her
money to the family charity.

(20) The Dude understands what has happened which overturns the situation. Other Lebowski heard
that Bunny was kidnapped and used it as a pretense for embezzlement. He stole the ransom from the
family charity. He gave the Dude an empty briefcase to trick him into being the fall guy.

Meanwhile, it is now clear that the kidnapping was a deception.

Bunny took an unannounced vacation. And the nihilists invented the kidnapping in order to get money
from other Lebowski.

(21) The Dude and Walter arrive at other Lebowski. Bunny is back at home, alive and with all toes
intact. They confront Lebowski who confesses. Walter physically assaults him.

(21) But it’s not the end as they are attacked by the nihilists. They once again demand the million
dollars. They illuminate the nihilists about there being no money. Walter uses excessive force to save
them but their friend Donny has a heart attack and dies.

Walter and The Dude go to a cliff overlooking a beach to scatter Donny's ashes. After a ceremony
which Walter turns into pointless act of stupidity. Walter accidentally covers The Dude with Donny's
ashes. The Dude accuses Walter of turning everything into "a travesty". Unfazed, Walter suggests,
"Fuck it, Dude. Let's go bowling." (22) And they are once again banished to whence they came.


Appendix 7

Jim Carrey’s The Mask (1994)

Plot point summary applied to universal trickster structure.

(1) Stanley Ipkiss, a bank clerk that is a shy, luckless romantic who is regularly bullied by nearly
everyone around him. (His boss, his landlady, and car mechanics.) His only friends are his dog Milo,
connection to animals and possibly representation of animal within, and his co-worker Charlie.
Meanwhile, gangster Dorian Tyrell runs the Coco Bongo nightclub while plotting to overthrow his
boss Niko. (7) Tyrell sends his singer girlfriend Tina into the bank where Stanley works with a hidden
camera, in preparation to rob the bank.

She becomes his Primary love interest.

Later that night after being denied entrance to the Coco Bongo, his car breaks down on a bridge. In the
water below he finds a mysterious wooden mask.

(2) He takes the mask home and puts it on (10). (4) The mask transforms him into a "The Mask", a
trickster with the powers of Loki, his body seems able to do anything and he has none of (5) Stanley’s
personal inhibitions. (6) The mask exacts comical revenge on some of Stanley's tormentors: landlady
and car mechanics. Also at a street gang that attempts to mug him.

(3) The next morning, Stanley encounters world-weary Edge City detective Lieutenant Callaway, who
represents the responsibility to be lawful, and newspaper reporter Peggy, who represents the
responsibility to be nice. Both of whom are investigating/chasing the Mask because of activities of the
previous night.

(5) Despite these threats, the temptation to again use the mask is overwhelming and he puts it back on
that evening (10). Needing money to attend Tina's performance at the Coco Bongo, the Mask noisily
interrupts Tyrell's bank robbery and steals the targeted money exacting revenge on his boss in the
process (8).

(7) (5) The Mask buys entry into the Coco Bongo, where he performs acts of licentious libido, as
Helena Bassil-Morozow would term it, and hypnotical dancing/ “loss of control”, with Tina, in front
of the guests at Tyrell’s club.

(12) Tyrell violently asks who was responsible for thwarting the bank robbery and thug points to the
Mask who is on the dance floor.

Tyrell chases/confronts The Mask. In the kerfuffle Mask gets piece of tie shot off, which transforms
back into Stanley's distinctive pajamas, thus leaving evidence of his being there on the scene.

The Mask escapes. Lt. Callaway arrests Tyrell for the bank robbery. (Callaway also finds the pajama

(13) Callaway confronts Stanley at his apartment.

Stanley consults an expert on masks who tells him that the object is a depiction of Loki, the Norse god
of darkness and mischief.

(14) Stanley stands up to his boss and arranges for Tina to meet the Mask at the Park. (15) The
meeting goes badly when the Mask's advances scare Tina away. Lt. Callaway arrives and attempts to
arrest him. The Mask thwart their attempt at arresting him and tricks the entire police force into
joining him in a musical mass-hysteria/loss of control.

Stanley manages to get the mask off and Peggy helps him escape. (16) (17) (18) She then betrays him
to Tyrell for money.

Tyrell steals the mask and usurp Stanley’s powers. He becomes a monster. Stanley is dumped in
Callaway's lap as a decoy/fall guy.

(19)Tina visits Stanley in his cell (20). He tells her to flee the city. Tina thanks Stanley for treating her
like a person rather than a trophy. And he learns that she fell for the man behind The Mask, and not
the mask itself .

She attempts to leave the city but Tyrell catches her. She becomes Tyrell’s hostage at his raiding of
head gangster Niko’s charity ball at the Coco Bongo. “Everyone that’s anyone is there” type of

Monster Tyrell kills Niko in a gunfight. He then goes on to destroy both the club and kill Tina.

(21) Milo helps Stanley break out of his cell and they go to the club to stop Tyrell. Lt. Callaway goes
along with him under gunpoint as his hostage.

Stanley is spotted by thug and captured before he can do anything to stop Tyrell.

Tina tricks Tyrell into taking off the mask. Milo puts on mask turning him into a cartoon-like super-
dog who defeats Tyrell's men. Stanley fights Dorian. Stanley recovers the mask and wears it one last
time to swallow the bomb Tyrell has planted. He then flushes Tyrell down an imaginery drain of the
club's fountain in a scatological reference which defeats Tyrell once and for all.

The police arrive.

Mayor Tilton explains that Dorian was the Mask all the time. Thus saving Stanley from Callaway and
recognizing him as a hero (22).

Stanley, Tina, Charlie, and Milo leave the premises.

Stanley, Tina, Milo, and Charlie take the mask back down to the water. Tina throws it into the water
and they kiss.

Charlie attempts to retrieve the mask for himself, only to find Milo swimming away with it and out of
the picture.

Scores 20/22

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