Trickster Tales

Trickster Tales: Forty Folk Stories from Around the World retold by Josepha Sherman. Illus. by David Boston. Little Rock, AR: August House, 1996. ISBN 0- 87483-449-X (HC) $28.95 172 pp.

Think of the tricksters you know: Anansi, Tyl Eulenspiegel, Hodja, Coyote, Raven, Hare. They are al here in this collection of tales along with others of their lesser-known trickster relatives. Some of the tricksters are human, others are animals, magical creatures or spirits. All of them have their wits about them, much to the dismay of their adversaries. The collection starts with an Anansi story from the Ashanti people. It is the familiar tale of how Anansi got stories from Nyame, the Sky God. In this version Anansi's wife Aso does not appear and I rather missed her presence as his helpmate.

This story is followed by four others from Africa, and then by stories from Europe, The Near East Asia and Polynesia, Meso- and South America, and North America. The North American tricksters, which include Coyote, Rabbit, Saynday, Raven, Na'pe, and Manabozho, are all from Native American nations. The final chapter has a selection of stories about immigrant tricksters--tricksters whose stories were brought to North America from around the world and have become part of its folklore. Among others in this section are Jack, the Lutin, and Anansi. In a nice touch, Sherman ends the collection with variant of the opening Anansi story, this one imported from Jamaica.

I love trickster tales so it was great fun for me to find old favourites and meet new ones. Over one third of the tales were familiar to me. The others were either new (to m stories about familiar tricksters, introduced tricksters whom I had never met before. Each story is preceded by a very brief introduction to the trickster featured in it. Notes at the end oj the book give more detailed information about the trickster, story sources, motifs, and cultural contexts. I was concerned that in me case of the North American tricksters there was no mention of the concept of mythic hero or sacred fool. It seems imperative to me that this aspect of Coyote, Manabozho and some of the other Native tricksters be discussed, even in a simplified way. On the plus side, Sherman draws parallels between some of the stories and contemporary cartoon and book characters, helping young readers who read the notes make connections. She also uses rhetorical questions as a way of involving the reader in the notes, and makes liberal use of exclamation marks in communicating her enthusiasm for symbolism, neat connections and ideas. Although the stories and notes are simple enough for young readers, they will also be of interest to tellers looking for different tricksters to add to their repertoire.

The Second Story Review, Vol 1, No. 4, December 1996

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