Trickster Tales

Wendell Piez

Trickster and the Creation

God was on a roll when he created all the angels, and among them Trickster. And when he was done, they had a cakewalk. Each of the angels presented themself in turn, glorious and glorying each in their gift. But when Trickster came up, he carried a little doll he had made, a little Trickster. The angels frowned and muttered, knowing Trickster meant something but not knowing what he meant. They saw the doll but didn't see Trickster's self. But God saw the doll itself was Trickster's self, and laughed out loud. “You silly” the old man said, “you are that aspect of me that creates, that mixer-master, the ever-discontented new-old thing”. He smiled and waved the Trickster off. “Go forth!” cried God to all the angels, “go out and be what you are”. Trickster in particular, God kicked out.

Trickster wandered the world. Everything was coming up roses: angels were about, and beans and pumpkins and crazy-crack-corn were only the beginning of all the wonderful things Trickster found. But Trickster knew the craziness wasn't complete without new craziness. He decided to do something about it.

At this time, the creation wasn't finished yet: God was still populating the world. As he created them, God was giving each of the animals a gift. In fact, the angels wondered and admired, for they saw in God's gifts their own gifts, only made even more wonderful in God's giving them to his new creations, the angels' brothers and sisters. To the eagle God gave wings and far sight and talons for grasping. To the bear he gave size, strength and speed, the steadiness to sleep through the winter, and the knowledge of plants and their healing powers. But when God made his last creature, man, he found he had run out of gifts. He was sorry about this, so he improvised: he gave man the gift of being able to borrow, temporarily, the gift of any of the other animals. Trickster thought this was great and wonderful. He thought God had given man the best gift of all, and wanted it for himself. (And just as the angels admired God, Trickster thought he saw himself in God's gift, and felt it belonged to him, or ought to.) He decided he might steal it. But he thought the best way to get it was to make friends with man and win his confidence.

Trickster and the Origin of Evil

There were two villages, on opposite sides of a river. When the river was low, one could walk across with hardly a thought. When it was high, people from the two villages could come down and wave at each other from the shore across from each other, passing messages back and forth. One village was the Topknots, the other was the Ponytails.

Although Topknots were Topknots and Ponytails were Ponytails, and each were proud of their traditions, as you can imagine they sometimes liked to have dealings with one another, so really all of them were cousins. When a Ponytail girl married a Topknot guy, everyone would remark on how strange he was, or she was, and then all would go about their business. Meantime they traded in cloth and kitchenware and berries when they were in season, and no one thought much of it.

Trickster found them all fascinating. He would go among the Topknots at work or the Ponytails gathering and preparing for some celebration, and take part as best he could. They all thought he was as strange as a Ponytail, or Topknot as the case may be, but they let him be, and even laughed at his jokes. Soon Trickster had many friends.

But Trickster couldn't help himself. Despite his best efforts, he couldn't help from admiring certain bright baubles, or thinking up the most absurd stories, and soon he'd find himself stealing or lying. A few times Trickster even got himself and his friends in trouble. This caused a bit of friction, like when he told BrightEyes that WarRanger was called Pinkcheeks by his brothers and mom, which strictly speaking wasn't completely untrue, or when he spoiled Buttercup's bucket of milk by curdling it in the sun — he was lucky she liked the pancakes he subsequently made for her. He even, quite to his annoyance, started getting a reputation as a practical joker and a harmless laugh. The next thing he knew, Topknots weren't blaming each other, and neither were Ponytails, nor was anyone blaming anyone but him. “Oh, it was Trickster”, Mr Overcoat would plead with Mrs Overcoat when he was discovered to have forgotten the thread again, and would look at her with his sad eyes until she laughed and forgave him, and meantime Trickster would overhear and fume at the injustice of it.

Trickster got mad and decided to do something about it. He started the Blame Campaign, a game in which he would see how much in a single sentence or conversation he could get away with casting blame onto someone else, but sneakily, so all his friends wouldn't catch onto it. He soon discovered that they didn't actually much want to blame each other (after he had incited them, PepperJack and LotsoLuck had a heart to heart and they ended up better friends than ever) — but it wasn't hard to get them to blame others they didn't know so well (one reason they had found him so convenient). Soon he even found he could get whole families to disparage and disrespect each other, as long as they did it in their own kitchens where no one else was listening. Billy Club and all the other Clubs started harassing the Moneypennies, without Trickster even having to do much but make fun of the way they dressed.

But he knew he really was onto something when he discovered that the easiest thing of all was to get a Topknot to blame a Ponytail, or a Ponytail to blame a Topknot. Even though they were all practically cousins. To make this easier, he whispered to the Ponytails that the Topknots couldn't be trusted, and the same to the Topknots about the Ponytails, all because of things he made up about them. And whatever Ponytails didn't like about Ponytails, he would attribute to Topknots, while telling the Topknots that the Ponytails were guilty of whatever the Topknots didn't like about themselves.

After a while, people didn't travel as much between the two villages, and some of the Topknots decided to question any Ponytails that came across, and the Ponytails started doing the same to any Topknots that came across. They stopped meeting at dances and picnics and stopped marrying each other. They would still trade things they didn't really need for stuff they really wanted — extra furs for extra beads, but no more of the precious once-a-year berries — but quietly and in secret.

After a generation or two they had even started to forget that they were really cousins. Trickster was happy. He was able to commit all kinds of mayhem and didn't get blamed at all: they hardly knew he was there. Trickster decided he would figure out how to make this condition permanent, so he could visit anytime and never get blamed for anything.

So he made up a mythical story about an evil angel who hated God and ate children for breakfast, calling this dreaded figure Tailpony when he told the story in the Topknot village, and Knottop in the Ponytail village. This evil power was the source of all illness, pain and suffering in the world, he told them, and was tolerated by God only so as to tempt them and test their faith and prove their worthiness to enter the heaven of the Topknots or Ponytails respectively. Or perhaps God only tolerated him because this Evil Power was intended to take over the world before a great final battle, when he would be destroyed for good.

When he had them sufficiently fearful, then, in the middle of the Topknot village Trickster built (with the help of some especially fearful Topknot supporters) two statues. One was a Topknot like them, smiling, whom he called their great hero and savior. The other was the Dreaded Tailpony (who naturally looked like a Ponytail). Similary, over in the Ponytail village he had a smiling Ponytail and a fearsome snarling Knottop the Topknot. By worshiping the one statue and castigating the other (and by contributing to the Statue Support Fund, which he volunteered to help manage) the villagers would be able to protect themselves from the predations of the Tailpony or Knottop or whoever it was, and all his vicious, lying and deviant servants.

By this time, only a few Topknots and Ponytails were around who knew this was going on in the other village, and they weren't listened to when they pointed out how once they'd all been cousins, and recalled how Trickster had come among them and showed them how to play games and tricks on each other, and wondered how such a great change had happened. In fact, these few people were distrusted, since they might be servants of the Evil Power that had taken over the people on the other side of the river.

The river was still deep sometimes, and shallow other times, but no one walked across anymore except Trickster, and he did it when no one was looking.

Trickster and the Technologist

Trickster had a friend he admired very much: the Technologist. Tech would stay up all night making things. He had an automated dish-stacker that would stack all the clean dishes into the cabinets. He had a clock that showed what time it was in shining, glowing letters like the glowing embers of a fire, but which went on and on forever without going out.

The thing Trickster liked most about Technologist was that occasionally he would lose his head. It would be somewhere among his stuff (Techno always had lots of stuff around), and he couldn't find it, and naturally when he left it lying somewhere all kinds of crazy stuff could get in. It was safest on his shoulders, but you never knew when he'd decide something else was more important, and put it down for a while. Then the next thing you knew it would be lost. So Tech would go around without his head, bumping into things and forgetting where he'd put things, and even go without eating (which would make him cranky). In the meantime, crazy stuff would get into his head. Trickster even tried planting a couple of ideas in there himself, and was astonished to see what came out later.

Trickster also liked Technologist's work, and liked to go over to his workshop and play around. The work was both intricate and simple. It's a little-known fact that simplicity is what Trickster admires most of all, mostly because he has such a hard time with it himself, tending rather to complicate things. Technologist and Trickster could get into all kinds of complications together (Trickster was especially fond of playing with the Imps in the Machine), but when left to his own devices Technologist could make wonderfully simple things that were nonetheless exceedingly versatile and useful, just what Trickster liked. Like the weekend when the Technologist made the wheel, the gear and the power transmission cable all in one go: what a feat. Trickster had played with marionettes before: but to have them dance by themselves, now that was something else.

Nevertheless when Trickster saw a simple thing, he would always try to do something twisted or turned-around with it. Technologist was always very impressed when Trickster would do something backwards, like wear his underwear on his head (the next thing he knew, Technologist had invented the cotton night cap). Trickster had complicated feelings about all this. He liked the attention, but at the same time he didn't like being scrutinized and studied. He wanted to be admired, but regarded as mysterious, beyond understanding, subtle and elusive. So he would try to get Technologist back in subtle ways, keeping him alert, doing his best to trip him up here and there, distract him with the small details. Being, however, thoroughgoing in his general approach to things (unlike Trickster), Technologist introduced, as a control factor over the inexplicable randomizing influence he soon observed, Murphy's Corollary to the Law of Karma (or so it was called when later it was rediscovered): If Anything Can Go Wrong, It Will. His operational research was soon so profound that by a careful regimen of testing and analysis he could even predict variability. Trickster discovered he'd been stalemated.

Trickster had a secret rule of his own: When you're not invited, crash the party. But when you're stuck inside, go out. So he started telling all his other friends what a genius and what a good friend Technologist was, how he'd make them all rich by letting them in on his secrets. Pretty soon Technologist had all kinds of offers for collaboration, funding and development support for his various inventions. Since half the time Technologist had left his head somewhere among his projects, he was often exceedingly vulnerable to such wheeling and dealing. And in an instant, he discovered that all the things he'd made for himself now belonged to other people, who were promising each other happiness from things he had made to peel potatoes or sort the mail, and charging for it, that his careful testing regimens didn't apply, that all kinds of chaos and variability now surrounded his neatly constructed contraptions.