Tricky Stuff

From: PMichaels@aol.com
Date: Fri 10 Jan 1997 - 05:02:01 EET


It seems that in most RPGs the Trickster is usually presented as
either a fundamentally humorous/joking figure --a Fool or a Clown--, a
fundamentally cunning/sly figure --a Thief or a Rogue--, a
fundamentally unstable/insubstancial figure --a Shapeshifter or an
Illusionist--, or as some combination of these. This makes sense,
given that he has almost always been presented for player characters
as either a deity to worship and emulate, as a character class to
develop along, or both.

Even in Glorantha (which IMO has the best potential for fully realizing the
figure of Trickster in any RPG), he is apparently considered (as evidenced by

the comments on the Digest) to primarily be a figure of humor who pulls
pranks of one sort or another.

Unfortunately, I find this conception of Trickster to be limited.
Trickster is much more than sly and cunning tricks and jokes! He is a
creator and a destroyer at least as much as he is a clown and a thief.
He is also a liminal figure, something "betwixt and between."
Trickster has a dual nature, being half animal and half divine. As
Carl Jung (1) writes, "He is both subhuman and superhuman, a bestial
and divine being..." And these aren't even his fundamental
attributes! According to Jung, Trickster's "chief and most alarming
characteristic is his unconsciousness." He is not evil, but rather
"does the most atrocious things from sheer unconsciousness and
unrelatedness." Jung also sees in him "an approximation to the figure
of a savior." The folklorist Stith Thompson called him not just "a
creature of greed, lust, and stupidity," but also "a beneficent being,
bringing culture and light to his people."

In his essay on the Trickster, Karl Kerenyi writes that we all "seek
to understand this phenomenon [of the arch-trickster] in human terms."
This is naturally done through one of the most human things of all -
laughter. In his classic "An Essay on Comedy," George Merideth writes
about how comedy grasps the essence of humanity by serving an
important moral and social function: "it redeems us from our
posturings, stripping away pride, arrogance, complacency, and other
sins." Humor can also create social bonds.
 
As the saying goes, "laughter makes us human," and so, I suppose it's
not surprising that most RPG presentations focus so much on the jester
aspect of Trickster.

But my whole point in considering this for Glorantha is that the Elder
Races are NOT human, and so I think tricksters are understood in a
fundamentally different way and assume a fundamentally different form
for the Elder Races.

As an exercise (and because Stephen Martin requested it), lets
consider who the Uz trickster might be. (Actually, since the Uz stuff
written so far primarily describes the Dagori Inkarth trolls, this
excercise is more accurately a consideration of the Dagori Inkarth Uz
trickster!)

Whatever or whoever the trickster might be, I think the trolls would
understand him through one of the most trollish things of all -
cruelty. It is my contention that cruelty is to uz as humor is to
humans: something that entertains, that creates social bonds. Cruelty

plays as important a part in the uz society and psyche as comedy does
in human society and psyche. Thus the Uz trickster would be renown
for performing acts of cruelty, as would his followers.

(Please note that I'm NOT saying that trolls don't have a sense of
humor or laugh. I just think that laughter is a personal thing for
Uz, and does not have the same social effects or importance as it does
for humans.)

Just as other Tricksters, the Uz trickster would be an unconscious
figure. Given this, he likely performs acts of extreme violence
without thought or consideration. (This would also be a reflection of
his "subuz" nature.)

He would be a liminal figure, someone who both protects and destroys
trollish culture. He would probably be seen as sly and cunning as
well as stupid and rash. Since trolls are "of the Darkness," he (as
Trickster) might also be a creature of (or at least control) Light or
Fire. (This would probably also be a reflection of his "superuz"
nature.)

He might even be described in similar ways to, or doing similar things
as, other Gloranthan tricksters.

The official Chaosium Trickster cult description in Questlines states
that Eurmal's "most critical actions" --the most important things he
did-- "were to facilitate the discovery, use, and continued reuse of
Death." In King of Sartar it says that "Eurmal was the cause of all
the trouble anyway..." and "Since the broken world was of his
[Eurmal's] making..." This implies that perhaps Eurmal was
responsible for Chaos entering the world.

<Might this be similar to saying that, "Chaos entered into the cosmos
along the same route of jealousy, fear, and death which was pioneered
by [him]."?>

The same cult description says that tricksters "are not well liked,
and tolerated only when necessary." and "Even his friends only
grudgingly acknowledge his actions to save the world."

<Is this like saying, "The cult is often disliked or feared, but its
powers are always recognized."?>

Eurmal is also known for being one of the Seven Lightbringers, those
who saved the world, and as such is a necessary part of Life. He is
described as

"always there" and "universal."

<How close is this to, "As much as the rest of the world might regret
it, this entity is one which helped save the world and whose powers
may be needed again. He is part of the Cosmic Balance."?>

So, does this sound like any Trollish deity we know about?

Peace,
     Peter

_____

(1) Carl Jung's _On the Psychology of the Trickster Figure_, along with Karl
Kerenyi's _The Trickster in Relation to Greek Mythology_, were written as
commentaries to Paul Radin's _The Trickster_ (which they are now often
published with), and were seminal works in creating the very idea of "The
Trickster" as a category and figure for study.

------------------------------

End of Glorantha Digest V4 #60
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