Sunday, 12 June 2011

Coyote the Trickster

I made a brilliant discovery yesterday morning, and didn't have to go any further than my own bookshelves. Coyote the Trickster is a collection of twelveNative American stories featuring the trickster animal / god Coyote, a character who, after gorging myself of Anansi / Anancy and Loki, I felt it was really time to know more about. I'd forgotten we even owned his little book of tales retold by the marvellous Douglas Hill and the poet Gail Robinson, but it sang out at me just as I was beginning to get bored waiting for delivery of my brand new passport (! more on that later). 

I've found over the past couple of weeks that it's unusual for a retelling of a traditional tale to be as engaging on the page as I imagine it would be told out loud - that is, after all, why I'm studying stoytelling - but this collection was a bit special. Almost every one fired off in my head and made me want to take it away and ferment it and evangelise about it to the whole world! But here's the list of my favourites:

Coyote and Brown Giant 
Coyote and Little Blue Fox
Coyote and the Giant Lizard
Coyote in the Land of the Dead

Raven had some stories in the collection too. He's an incorrigible trickster as well, from further North than Coyote, but despite being greedy, naughty and cunning, in the stories I've read he seems more conflicted - by guilt, and duty, and loneliness - than the Coyote I know so far. My favourite Raven stories in this collection are the absolute classics if Wikipedia is anything to go by:
Raven and the Coming of Daylight
Raven and the Whale
Raven and the Fisherman

I was hugely excited by the latter two in this list, because of their great potential to become 'framing' stories: the characters get into a situation where they're sitting together, and to pass the time they tell each other about their lives, the things they've seen, the places they've been, and so forth. In the Raven and the Whale, the Raven tells stories of the air and the light, and the outer world, while the girl-spirit of the whale counters with stories of darkness, of inner life. In the Fisherman, it's stories of the air, versus stories of the sea. What songs! what fun could be had imagining what they actually told each other. But that is, of course, another story.

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