Sunday, April 22, 2012

Idea Garage Sale: Trickster-on-Trickster Smackdown

Jackrabbit, Raven, and Old Coyote,
Came by here and left you a note.

I scribbled that down one day in a soulsucking day job and forgot about it. The notes around it indicate that I was wondering how Coyote had become the premiere Trickster figure in modern American fantasy. He's 100% native, and that's good, but so is Raven, and he's stuck with his Old World associations with death and violence with no leavening of humor. Rabbit was supreme for a long time, manifesting as Brer Rabbit and Buggs Bunny, but I reckon just the fact that he's a prey species has acted against him. Modern Americans prefer predators. I remember Gayle Ross complaining once, on a shared school visit, of some white writer taking a Rabbit story and changing the protagonist to Coyote for no very good reason.

I think in terms of the continental US Raven is Northwestern (but he was General Houston's totem animal, and Houston's tribe of refuge was the Cherokee), Coyote Southwestern, and Rabbit hails from the Eastern Seaboard. Generally. But the tribes are all mixed up in the wake of the European invasion, anyway.

So what if they teamed up?

Against who?

The forces of law, as represented by - hmmm, there aren't very many memorable folkloric figures of law, are there?

What if they team up against other tricksters? Well, what other tricksters? Raynard the Fox, Anansi - hey, we could have two teams of three, with Rabbit playing for both teams as suited him.

What are the stakes? Is it pure farce, or is there a razorsharp satirical edge, suitable for these big movers and shakers to illustrate?

That could be epic. And complicated. A farce of trick and countertrick, bluff and double bluff, shifting allegiances, tables turning till they fly out the window. The kind of thing PJ Wodehouse used to plot on index cards tacked all around the walls of his room.

I am not clever enough to pursue this idea. I get dizzy just peering over the edge of it.


  1. Random thoughts on the subject:

    * Coyote and Raven often play off against one another in the stories, but I can see them making common cause.

    * Whenever I see Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck together, I tend to see the grey trickster and the black trickster as Coyote and Raven.

    * I'd say your reasons for Coyote's winning out are probably about right. USAns definitely do tend to identify with predators rather than prey (we chose the eagle over the turkey and the dove, after all).

    * When Walden was in the Second Grade or so, we were watching an episode of "The Simpsons" in which Homer had taken an hallucinogen. He saw a number of highly symbolic things, but when a canine started talking to him, I wanted to explain what was going on, but Waldy burst out with, "Oh, no, it's Coyote -- now Homer's really in trouble!" My admiration for his (public) school rose still higher.

    * Wasn't there a DC or Vertigo appearance by the old funny-animal characters Fox and Crow, which made them explicitly alternate guises of Coyote and Raven? It seems as though I read that, but search engines seem not to be my friends today.

  2. Second Grade Waldy recognizing Coyote is not only impressive, it's cute as heck.

    The Fox and Crow thing doesn't ring any bells with me, but it's years since I read a mainstream comic, so you can't go by me. PS238, now - that's good stuff!

  3. Kathe heard a coyote yipping and howling last night. Sounded like it was about five blocks away, she said. Okay, Corvallis is only about 50,000 people, and I saw one just a couple of miles outside of town, but still a wonderfully spooky (and trickstery) thing. Sorry I missed it.

    I have finally noticed that I read comics in two modes: one for Persepolis and Vogelein, and another for Birds of Prey and 52. The latter serve for me the function Ace Double Novels did for my father (what he referred to as "shoot-'em-ups"). I think other people establish these categories early in life, often discarding one or the other entirely. Not sure what that means, either the division or the timing, but it's something I have noticed.