Dr. Wendolyn Weber
Cougar or Coyote
The trickster is an important archetype in any religion or myth because it provides an outlet for all of the chaotic and destructive emotions and tendencies of a people that are controlled by a larger social construct. It is through a trickster figure that people of a religion or society are able to explore the more untamed side of their nature while additionally presenting them with the consequences of those desires. The trickster is a figure that at once both mocks social morals and at the same time also reinforces those morals by showing the pandemonium and trouble that arises if the people do not follow the rules that are in place. The trickster also allows the people of a religion to express ideas and desires that might not ordinarily be acceptable in their society. In this way the trickster plays a very important and cathartic role in a religion or myth.
Penelope, from Homers The Odyssey, is a woman of grit and spirit. Ellen Shull declares in her essay “Valuing Multiple Critical Approaches: Penelope, Again... and Again” that Penelope is “the paragon of resilient womanhood” (32). However, a trickster god, like Monkey from Wu Ch'eng-en's novel Monkey, and a mortal woman like Penelope appear to have nothing in common. Their roles are so different and their apparent purposes are even more so. On the surface it may seem as though Penelope from The Odyssey shares very little resemblance with a trickster god. However, when one takes a closer look the similarities become more obvious. Penelope is at once a powerful figure that adheres to the social norms of her patriarchal society while still rebelliously challenging the acknowledged rules of how a woman should behave. This can be seen as how a trickster like Monkey is used in myth to subvert a society’s own beliefs. Penelope is the other side of the coin of what it means to be a trickster. She is the...