Does the story - David Wayne Layman, Ph.D.

The Trickster
May or may not be god-like
“liminal”: at the edge, on the border
Appetites and reason
Morally problematic
Greedy manipulator
Culture hero
Destroy in order to recreate (354)
Raven Myth of Sitka: cosmology
• “no one knows”; “all sorts of ways”
• Creation of light
– Needs to get into house where there is light
– Impregnates daughter asexually
– Keeps crying for objects that contain light
– Stars, moon, sun
• Exposes light to fishers of “eulachon”
Raven Myth at Wrangell: Background and
• “only high-caste people knew”
• “Nas-ca’kiyel” (“Raven at the head of the Nass”)
– To whom…formerly prayed; no one had seen =
“deus otiosus” = “idle god”
– Discuss other titles
• Daughter of unknown origin
– No children
– Possible quasi-sociological explanation
– Eats hot pebble: discuss names
Raven: creation of humans
• Paratactic description (top and middle)
– Humans created twice
– Nas-ca’ki-yel is both father and son
– Both Raven & Nas-ca’ki-yel want light
– Raven gives birth to himself
• Humans made from leaves: would you rather
be a leaf or rock?
Common themes of two Raven stories
• Light (“noise” in 2nd version)
• Drops water to make bodies of water
(301 bot.; 304 middle)
• Different land and sea animals
(302 top; fuller story 304 top)
– Connection between hunter and hunted
• Caught in smoke hole and turned black
• Later in the Wrangell account
– Fire, witches
Why the raven?
301 middle: “that old manuring raven…”
“crying for the moon” (301, 303 bot.)
Why are people afraid of light?
Sacralize trickery and embarrassment (301)
What are the characteristics of the raven?
Why are these valued or seen as cultureforming?
Eulachon [“OO-li=kan”]
• Small migrating fish
• Excellent for oil; can be dried and used as
• Caught
at night?
African Trickster Tales
• “Why the Hare Runs Away”: note problem
– Common problem & response of rabbit
– The “image” & birdlime: Why does the hare salute the
• The Ant’s Burden
The dwarf, the sticks, the song
What do the big sticks of Anansi represent?
Why is the father put in the position of the trickster?
What is the moral of the exchange between father and
son over the dwarf’s body?
– How does the story finally evaluate Anansi?
African-American Trickster Tales:
“Why They Name the Stories for Anansi”
• What trait does Anansi need?
• How does the snake defeat Anansi at first?
• What character trait of the snake does Anansi
use against him?
– What does this strategy tell us about being “the
wisest and cleverest (347 bottom)”?
• Does the story approve or disapprove of
Anansi? The snake?
“Tricking all the kings”
• First king: “Massa King”
– The well and the tar-baby
– What does the story leave out? Why?
– Why is the sea better than being shot? What is the
trickster always able to do?
– What is Buh Nansi’s home?
• Second king: the shark
– How does Buh Nansi appeal to the shark?
– Uses the “small fish” to catch the shark (Buh Nansi
“leverages” his catch)
“Tricking all the kings” (2): the lion
Why does Buh Nansi invite the lion?
What saves Buh Nansi?
Does Buh Nansi tell the truth to his wife?
The lion tries to become the trickster but lacks the
• What is the purpose of the dance, baby, & sheet
• The peppers and the meal
• Does the story really teach the moral it gives us?
Prometheus as Trickster
• Paratactic
– Both bound and freed
– Zeus binds and approves release
• “Clever Prometheus was bound by Zeus”
(l. 1; also see ll. 64-66)
• Deceit of sacrifice
– Hides meat in stomach and bones under fat
– Zeus “chooses” bones
– Thus people always burn the bones (l. 46)
Crafty Prometheus and angry Zeus
• If Zeus “was not deceived,” why does he “rage
within” (ll. 39, 43)?
• How human existence always is
– Zeus’ denial of human needs
– “gatherer of clouds” (l. 47); “thunders” (l. 58)
– “crafty” [=“cunning”] Prometheus (l. 50) & the
“craft” [=“wisdom”] of Zeus (l. 51)
– (Denies the fire because of the deception)
• See l. 62
(l. 48) Son of Iapetos, cleverest god of all
Ἰαπετιονίδη, πάντων πέρι μήδεα εἰδώς,
Son of Iapetos of all
counsels knows
plans, arts
So friend, you do not yet forget your (l. 50) crafty
ὦ πέπον, οὐκ ἄρα πω δολίης ἐπιλήθεο τέχνης.
art, skill,
So spoke the angry Zeus,(l. 51) whose craft is everlasting
ὣς φάτο χωόμενος Ζεὺς ἄφθιτα μήδεα εἰδώς:
imperishable counsels knows
Prometheus in Aeschylus
• Discuss the implicit evaluation of Zeus’ rule in
ll. 1-21
• List the skills Prometheus claims he gave man.
• In what sense is “pro-metheus” the author of
these skills?
• What does Prometheus’ defense tell us about
the nature/efficacy of Zeus’ rule?
• What is the “irony” of Prometheus (ll. 53-55)?
Loki: the Norse Trickster God (pp. 444-445)
• Assists the gods in their tricks and machinations
• Thor’s “maid” to regain hammer
• As mare, draws away the horse of the giant
making Asgard
– Keeps gods from having to pay the giant
• (Snorri) In mare form gives birth to Odin’s steed,
• Mocks/insults the gods in Loki’s Quarrel
• As Utgard-Loki (?): “sight-deceiving magic”
Loki’s Quarrel [=Lokasenna], introduction
1. ‘Tell me, Eldir,… / What the sons of the
glorious gods here inside/ Are talking about over
their ale’
2. [Eldir] ‘They discuss their weapons and their
prowess in war, … / Among the Aesir and of the
elves who are within, / No one has a friendly
word for you
3. [Loki]…before the end of the feast quarreling
I’ll bring to the Aesir’s son’s / and thus mix their
mead with malice.’
The Poetic Edda, Carolyne Larrington, trans. (Oxford Univ. Press)
Loki and Idunn
17. ‘Be silent, Idunn, I declare that of all women
You’re the most man-crazed,
Since you place your arms, washed bright,
About your brother’s slayer’
(Idunn) 18. … I quietened Bragi, made talkative
with beer;
I don’t want you two angry men to fight.’
The Poetic Edda, Carolyne Larrington, trans. (Oxford Univ. Press)
Loki and Odin
22. ‘Be silent, Odin, you never know how to /
apportion honour in war among men; / Often you’ve
given what you shouldn’t have given, / Victory, to the
[Odin] 23. ‘…yet eight winters you were, beneath the
earth, / a woman milking cows, / and there you bore
children, / and that I thought the hallmark of a
pervert [=“womanish ways,” i.e., effeminate].’
[Loki] 24. ‘But you once practiced seid on Samsey, /
and you beat on the drum as witches do, / in the
likeness of a wizard you journeyed among mankind, /
and that I thought the hallmark of a pervert.’
The Poetic Edda, Carolyne Larrington, trans. (Oxford Univ. Press)
Loki and Freyia
30. ‘…of the Aesire and that elves, who are in here,
Each one has been your lover.’
[Freyia calls Loki a liar] …
32. ‘Be silent, Freyia, you’re a witch
And much imbued with malice,
You were astride your brother, all the laughing gods
surprised you,
And then, Freyia, you farted.
[Finally Thor returns, threatens Loki with his
hammer, and Loki says he knows Thor means it.]
The Poetic Edda, Carolyne Larrington, trans. (Oxford Univ. Press)
Loki as source of destruction
• Responsibility for Balder’s death may be
Snorri’s invention
• Bound, under “hot springs” with entrails of son
(Völuspa, 33-34) (source of earthquakes)
• Ragnarok
– Impregnates the giant-woman with the 3
monsters that will destroy the world
– Steers ship that brings inhabitants of Muspell
Characteristics of Ritual: Rites of Passage
• Rituals that take a person from one state of life
to another
• Liminal period: “in-between”
• Liminal person is socially (=structurally)
invisible: may act or play dead
• “ritually polluting”
• Those sharing the liminal experience are
Ritual as Play
• Life is reconstructed, acted out in new ways
• Symbols, designs, masks (≈“dress-up”)
– E.g., Kachina masks or dolls (see p. 101)
– Communicates beliefs, ideas, enactments through
• This is as much a part of life as “work”
– I.e., work and “ritual” are not separate parts of life
(see 378-9) (contrast American religion)
– One must participate (see 381 bottom)
– Liminal periods allow “invention” of “new reality”
The “Luminoid” (see bottom 379)
• Contemporary society is only like a liminal
– Separation of religion and state
– Separation of morality and community
– Separation of play and work
• Contemporary “play” is optional (380 bot.)
– Levels of cultural sophistication
– Irony (satire) as “pseudo-liminal”
– “individualized” (382 bottom), “plural”(-ism)
Demeter and Persephone: the Story (1)
• Persephone = Kore (“girl”)
– Abducted by Hades (l. 19)
– In accordance with will of Zeus
– Abduction only viewed by sun and moon
• The withdrawal of Demeter
To Eleusis, offers services as old nurse
“aw, reverence, pale fear” (190)
Iambe and the cup of barley-meal
“man must take the gifts of the gods” (216-7, 147-8)
Demophoön and Demeter’s Wrath
• Demophoön, ambrosia, and cleansing by fire
– “immortal…would I have made your son” (ll. 260-1)
– “Propitiate my mind” (ll. 274, 292; also ll. 367-9)
• Men and gods punished (ll. 310-2)
– Give up the dead…lest men die! (ll. 345 ff.)
• Return of Persephone
– How does death “grab” and “trick” humanity?
– “do not nurse unrelenting anger” (ll. 467-8)
– The mysteries revealed (ll. 474-482)
Outline of the Mysteries (p. 386)
Procession to bring sacred objects to Athens
Ritual bathing, for purification
Procession of initiands to Eleusis
– Fasting, ritual bathing
– “obscene lyrics” (p. 395, l. 205), for women
• “Telesterion” [“completion”]: barley drink,
opening of “Anaktoron”
Dionysus: basic characteristics (459-61)
• “outside” but not an “outsider”
• animal passions and vitality
“sap, juice, or lifeblood element in nature” (EB)
Ecstasy: ec-stasis: to stand outside
Dissolution of boundaries (461)
Wine, nature, consumption of raw meat
• Myths may not describe actual rituals (460)
– “Transgressive;” “subversive”
– Carried out by city officials, people of high status
Major Characteristics of the Myth of
• Semele wants proof of divine love, dies
• Madness
– Step-parents, kill children
– Dionysos himself
– Lycourgos (464), Theban women, Pentheus
– pirates
• “Insult[ed] and expell[ed] (why?)
• “shown…he was a god”; “men came to know he
was a god”
Major Characteristics of Dionysian
Rituals =Orgia (462)
• Drinking parties & competitions, drunkenness
• Obscenity, cursing, phallic images, crossdressing
• The dead walk among us
– “Pitchers” and “Pots”
• Torchlight processions
• Dramas (“City Dionysia”), retelling of myths
• “wild cries that combined grief and joy” (462)
Phallic Image
Norse Gods and Norse Rituals: Odin
• “lord of hosts”
– Fills Valhalla with warriors
– Both gives and withdraws his favor (433)
– “stirs up warfare” (434)
• The self-dedication of Odin (also see 443)
– Hanging and spearing
• Norse replacement of Germanic “Tiwaz” = “Tyr”
• Valkyries: “ravens,” hanging over the battlefield
• Beserkers: the madness of battle
Havamal: the self-sacrifice of Odin
138 Wounded I hung on a wind-swept gallows
For nine long nights,
Pierced by a spear, pledged to Odhinn,
Offered, myself to myself
The wisest know not from whence spring
The roots of that ancient rood
139 They gave me no bread,
They gave me no mead,
I looked down;
with a loud cry
I took up runes;
from that tree I fell.
Havamal: Odin gains power and wisdom
140 Nine lays of power
I learned from the famous Bolthor, …
141 Waxed and throve well;
Word from word gave words to me,
Deed from deed gave deeds to me,
142 Runes you will find, and readable staves,
Very strong staves,
Very stout staves,
Staves that Bolthor stained,
Made by mighty powers,
Graven by the prophetic god,
Funeral Human Sacrifice (Ahmad Ibn-Fadlan)
(a servant girl volunteers to “join” her dead master)
“They gave her strong drink and admonished her
to drink it quickly. After this, the girl seemed dazed.
At this moment the men began to beat upon their
shields, in order to drown out the noise of her
cries, which might deter other girls from seeking
death with their masters in the future.
They laid her down and seized her hands and feet.
The old woman known as the Angel of Death
knotted a rope around her neck and handed the
ends to two men to pull. Then with a broad dagger
she stabbed her between the ribs while the men
strangled her.”
“Tollund Man”
Tollund man 2
From Njals Saga
(quoted in Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, Kindle Location 1104-1111)
We weave, we weave the web of the spear, as on
goes the standard of the brave. We shall not let
him lose his life; the Valkyries have power to
choose the slain. … All is sinister now to see, a
cloud of blood moves over the sky, the air is red
with the blood of men, as the battle-women
chant their song.
Norse Gods and Ritual: Thor
• Physical vitality and strength
– Easily angered
– Huge appetite
– “Son of the earth”
• Thor’s hammer
– Required against the giants: Thrym’s Poem
– “sign of the hammer”: birth, and maybe death
– See 439 top, 2nd paragraph
Day soon became evening, and ale was brought to the
giants' table. There Thor ate an ox and eight whole
salmons,… [and] drank three measures of mead.
Thrym, the lord of giants, said, "Have you ever seen a
bride eat and drink so heartily?”
The maid-servant wisely answered thus: "Freyja was
so eager to come to Jotunheim that she has eaten
nothing for eight nights.”
Thrym stooped beneath his bride's veil, wanting to
kiss her, then jumped back the whole length of the hall.
"Why are Freyja's eyes so fearful?" he said. "I think that
fire is flaming from her eyes.”
…"Freyja …has not slept for eight nights.”
Then a poor sister of one of the giants came in and
dared to beg a gift from the bride. "If you want my love
and friendship then give me the gold rings from your
fingers," she said.
Then Thrym, the lord of giants, said, "Bring me the
hammer to bless the bride. Lay Mjöllnir on the
maiden's lap, let the two of us thus be hallowed in the
name of Vor, goddess of vows!”
When Thor saw the hammer his heart laughed
within him, and he took courage. He first slew Thrym,
the lord of giants,…. Finally he slew the old giantess ….
Instead of rings she received the mark of Mjöllnir.
Thus Thor won back his hammer.
Fertility Gods
• Freyr
– Human sacrifice
– Dancing (sexually suggestive/cross-dressing?)
– “make love not war” (440 top)
• Freyja (sister-spouse of Freyr)
– Fertility goddess ≈ Aphrodite, Ishtar
– Volva (female shaman, see 441)
Norse Shamanism
• Volva: the female shaman
– Seidr: “witchcraft” (?)
– Incantation and ecstatic states
– Bird-form: fly over the land
• Odin as shaman
– Link between worlds
– The “world-tree” (=Yggdrasil)
– The head of Mimir
Death Rituals
• Death as a journey
– Ship
– (Lord of the Rings: last ship to the west)
• Thor’s hammer/swastika on urns/stones
• Mound, the “holy hill” (444)
• Odin, war, cremation
Related flashcards


26 cards

Literary genres

22 cards

Philosophy books

23 cards


17 cards

Medieval literature

42 cards

Create Flashcards