Trickster Archetype

Learn all about the trickster archetype, including definition, characteristics, examples and how it relates to the Jester archetype.

Trickster Archetype

One of the key archetypes of the psyche identified by renowned psychoanalyst Carl Jung, the trickster is a mischievous and often malicious practical joker.

Their dubious jokes and deceitful manner can lead to them being assumed to be a purely negative influence, though in reality they can in fact be loyal allies and challenge individual’s to break out of the conventions and rules which society has placed upon them.

Trickster Archetype Characteristics & Traits

  • The trickster is capable of forward-thinking strategy, planning out future moves to great effect.
  • Possessing of great intelligence, usually more so than would first appear to be the case on the surface, the trickster is able to navigate their way through life’s challenges using cunning, mischief and trickery.
  • The trickster may also have a gift for entertaining others – when in this guise they are most associated with the clown.

The trickster archetype is a powerful motif in culture through the ages, both in human and animal form.

In Jewish and Christian traditions, the snake which tricks Eve into eating the apple in the Garden of Eden is a trickster. The snake succeeds in tricking humanity out of immortality and the joyful, easy life of the Garden and, in some traditions, assumes immortality for itself in doing so.

Some cultures have Gods specifically associated with the trickster, such as the Polynesian God Kaulu, the African God Esu and the Pacific-Northwest Indian God Blue-Jay.

More recently, fairy tales and fables such as Little Red Riding Hood, with it’s wolf disguised as a human, have demonstrated the trickster archetype.

In modern science some psychologists have claimed to find evidence of the trickster archetype in the symptoms of schizophrenia.

Trickster Archetype Examples

The trickster archetype is commonly employed in literature, TV and film. Wile Coyote, the Looney Tunes character who employed trickery and scheming in attempts to catch and eat the Road Runner, was an example of the trickster archetype in cartoon form.

Indeed, the writers consciously created a coyote trickster due to their awareness of the Native American tradition of the coyote being reliant on its own wits and schemes to survive.

In recent films the characters of Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean series or Megan in Bridesmaids are also examples of the trickster archetype.

Further Reading

Further reading on the trickster archetype includes:

  • Four Archetypes: Mother, Rebirth, Spirit, Trickster – by Carl Jung
  • The Female Trickster: The Mask That Reveals, Post-Jungian and Postmodern Psychological Perspectives on Women in Contemporary Culture – by Ricki Stefanie Tannen
  • The Trickster Gods and Their Influence on the Development of Human Culture – by Jeffrey Lang
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