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  • Hi, there. I'm Mike Rugnetta. This is Crash Course Mythology, and today we're going to start the first of a few episodes

  • a show favorite: trickster stories, but be warned, trickster

  • myths can get sexy, a little gross, and they're filled with betrayal, but we should be able to handle it, right Thoth?

  • Oh, hmm...

  • Oh, Thoth, Stan just texted me. You've been promoted to host. So, uh, I'm just going to go grab a coffee. See you later

  • Good luck.

  • [Intro]

  • Just kidding. There's no way that Thoth could host the show.

  • He's like thousands of years old and he only speaks Ancient Egyptian which literally no one understands.

  • But roping some sucker into doing my work is exactly the sort of thing a trickster would do.

  • Trickster stories are traditionally very popular, and for a good reason:

  • In many trickster stories the underdogs come out on top, and not by virtue of their...

  • superior strength or immortal attributes either, but because of their smarts.

  • Another appealing thing about tricksters Is that they're transgressive. They're rebels and who doesn't love a rebel? Just ask Ares, Greek

  • God of War and Rebellion or James Dean the American God of pomade and leather jackets.

  • A good place to start is mythologist David Leeming's description of a trickster:

  • so a moral and scatological, but otherwise a good guy. We all have that friend, I think.

  • Let's begin in Africa. African Trickster stories remain popular and frequently have ambiguous or morally dubious endings.

  • According to Thury and Devinny,

  • So let's see exactly what they mean by "disharmony" in the Thought Bubble.

  • Anansi the spider and his son [] are farmers having a bad year because of a drought.

  • One day [] is out for a walk lamenting the poor harvest and he sees a hunchback dwarf by the side of the road.

  • The dwarf asks [] what's wrong, and when he explains the dwarf promises to help.

  • He tells [] to find two small sticks and tap him lightly on his hump while singing. So, tap tap, and it begins to rain.

  • Soon the crops start growing. Anansi thinks he can do better and goes to look for the dwarf himself, making sure to bring two big sticks.

  • The dwarf tells Anansi to tap him on his hump again,

  • but Anansi ends up hitting the dwarf so hard that he kills him.

  • Now, Anansi is scared because the dwarf was the King's favorite jester.

  • So he puts the dwarf's body in a kola tree and waits.

  • When his son [] come by and asks his father if he'd seen the dwarf,

  • Anansi tells him that the dwarf is climbing the tree looking for a kola nut.

  • The quicken sin climbs up the tree the dwarf's body falls down to the ground

  • Anansi cries out that "his son had killed the King's jester!" But [] knows Anansi's tricks and replies that the King was

  • actually angry with the dwarf and now he could go to the king and collect a reward.

  • Knowing there's a bounty Anansi exclaims that he had killed the dwarf.

  • Anansi arrives at the Kings court and discovers the King was not angry with the Jester.

  • But now he's certainly angry with Anansi. The king orders the body of the dwarf to be put in a box which Anansi must carry

  • on his head forever unless he finds someone else to carry it.

  • Eventually, Anansi comes across Ant and asks him to hold the box while he goes to the market, and, wouldn't you know it, Ant falls for it?

  • This is why to this day we often see ants carrying great burden. Thanks, Thought Bubble.

  • It's probably becoming clear. Why you know a lot of us just don't trust spiders.

  • In a number of ways, this is a classic African Trickster story.

  • It features animals with human characteristics interacting in a human world

  • The Trickster is initially undone by his own greed.

  • If Anansi had just listened to his son and not tried to outdo him, he would have been okay.

  • Also, maybe he shouldn't have tried to frame his son for a murder.

  • But Anansi fails in his attempt to hide his crime because his son knows his reputation for duplicity.

  • Despite his cleverness Anansi's greed gets the better of him.

  • His desire for the reward leads him to admit his bad deed and be punished for it.

  • And if he did end up carrying the coffin for eternity, the story might provide a lesson about justice,

  • but Anansi, being a trickster, is able to convince someone else to bear his burden.

  • So he gets off scot-free. The ending of the story does explain a natural phenomenon

  • (why ants are so industrious),

  • but the story isn't exactly a model for good behavior. In the end Anansi gets away with killing the dwarf.

  • His comeuppance is brief and the only thing he learns is that ants are total suckers.

  • It's really like a Quentin Tarantino film of trickster myths.

  • The story of Anansi and the Ant bears some resemblance to one of Hercules's labors.

  • We'll talk more about Hercules when we get to our episode on heroes,

  • but the long and short is that he had to do twelve labors, and completing them cemented his reputation.

  • One of these labours, the eleventh, was to gather Zeus's Golden Apples from the far end of the Earth.

  • These apples were guarded by a dragon (Ladon) and the Hesperides,

  • nymphs who were the daughters of Atlas, the Titan with the unenviable task of holding the world on his shoulders.

  • Talk about legendary back pain.

  • It took a long time and a number of adventures before Hercules even found out where the apples were,

  • but eventually he is told about them by another trickster, Prometheus.

  • You remember him, he's the guy who stole fire for the Humans and was punished by being chained to a rock

  • and having his liver eaten daily by an eagle.

  • Well good news, eventually Hercules kills that eagle and in return Prometheus tells him

  • that the way to get the apples isn't to fight a dragon, but to simply ask Atlas.

  • Atlas can easily get past his daughters and that Mr. Dragon. No sweat.

  • So hercules makes a deal with Atlas hercules will hold up the world giving Atlas a much-needed break and in return, apples.

  • Atlas is thrilled because I mean think about it, how would you feel holding up the literal world all the time?

  • So he leaves, he goes he grabs the apples.

  • The problem is that when he returns he tells Hercules that he really doesn't want to hold up the earth and the sky anymore.

  • So like maybe that's just your job now Hercules. I don't know, just spit balling here.

  • So here's Hercules, he can't move, he's holding the world after all, but he does some quick tricky thinking.

  • He tells Atlas "Sure, he'll do it", but could atlas take the Earth and Sky back for just a second while he gets some padding for his shoulders?

  • And when Atlas agrees, Hercules grabs the apples and vamooses.

  • Tricksters tricking tricksters. Kind of like [???].

  • In these stories, we see that it often doesn't take much for a trickster to figure out how to fool the object of his trick, sometimes called a dupe.

  • Often the dupe doesn't really deserve it, although it's hard to feel sorry for Atlas,

  • who was attempting some minor league trickstering himself.

  • While tricksters can be seen as playful scamps, they also show us that play can be dangerous,

  • especially, when like Anansi, we let it go too far.

  • in the Anansi story, the trickster acts as what Leonard and McClure call a moral counterexample.

  • We're usually better off when we don't lie or cheat each other, but that's exactly what tricksters do.

  • We're typically happy when they're punished for their tricks, but this doesn't always happen.

  • Trickster stories can be especially troubling because not only do they usually get away with their tricks, but are often celebrated for it.

  • Tricksters aren't all bad, though. The trickster can provide a model for the oppressed to reclaim some autonomy in the face of overwhelming power.

  • This is one of the main lessons of the Br'er rabbit stories which are descended from African Trickster stories,

  • but transplanted into the context of chattel slavery in English-speaking North America.

  • Br'er can be seen as representing slaves who would use their ingenuity to fort and outsmart cruel plantation owners

  • Maybe then, it's worth asking what would happen if the tricksters just always won.

  • And the truth is while some tricksterism may be justified and a little bit of transgression here and there is fun,

  • if everyone decides that it's okay to beat dwarves to death in order to double the amount of rainfall, metaphorically speaking, that wouldn't be great.

  • Trickster stories are often morally ambiguous in this way.

  • Even Br'er rabbit isn't all clearly the good guy, and that's one part of why we like them so much, maybe.

  • Sometimes it's simply a thrill to break the rules. We as human can see ourselves pretty clearly in the trickster myths.

  • It's hard to identify with someone who can hold the world or who goes on errands for the father of creation,

  • but we've all at least tried our hand.

  • Bamboozling someone into taking over our responsibility. Sorry Thoth, you're a good sport.

  • Thanks for watching, we'll see everyone next week.

Hi, there. I'm Mike Rugnetta. This is Crash Course Mythology, and today we're going to start the first of a few episodes

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Tricksters: An Introduction: Crash Course World Mythology 20

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    香蕉先生 posted on 2022/07/01
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