The trickster appears to be one of the more popular archetypal motifs in mythology. The Greek Hermes and Dionysus, the Egyptian Set, the Norse Loki, the Hindu Krishna, the Native American Coyote, the Yoruba Eshu and the West African Ananse are but a few examples1.

What is it about the trickster that inspired storytellers from so many diverse cultures around the world?

1 Wikipedia maintains a longer - but certainly not exhaustive - list of fictional tricksters.

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    Great question. My general feeling is that it's because their stories and deeds are the most fun and entertaining. Achilles has glory as the greatest warrior, but Odysseus seems much more beloved of the people. :)
    – DukeZhou
    Oct 11, 2017 at 18:56
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    @DukeZhou I think the trickster's stronger asset is their unpredictability. Most other characters are bound by their moralities. It's not hard to predict what they'll do next. The trickster, on the other hand, can switch from hero to villain on a whim.
    – yannis
    Oct 12, 2017 at 8:36
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    I agree 100%. Unpredictability of a character has tremendous utility value from a narrative perspective.
    – DukeZhou
    Oct 12, 2017 at 15:46

1 Answer 1


Most religions, when and where they developed, were not only a source of power for the priests, but also a convenient set of predefined rules by which people could live their lives.

The problem with this was that most priests altered/made rules in such a manner that they themselves could be benefitted by them. Also, some rules caused problems in some, if not many, parts of society.

The people would obviously want to rebel. But going against religion was, literally, blasphemy.

Those of the sheeple who were a bit more mentally capable than the rest deduced that the only way they could get away with disobeying rules was if they were obeying the rules. Thus, the problem was to somehow make a set of conflicting rules, eitther of which they could follow as need arose. The trickster was, obviously, the first and best recourse, and I believe that this might have played a significant role in their popularity.

Not to mention that the trickster, being trickster-y, as one might expect of a young child with adult intelligence, literally if we see Krishna's case, added a much loved human element to the previously beyond-thee, impervious Gods. This would, obviously, increase popularity with the masses.

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