Friday, January 30, 1998

Q&A Lewis Hyde: Trickster's World, or Gods Fart Too

Originally appeared in the Boston Book Review.

The high gods set guard dogs around  their sacred meadows. If there is to be a change,  its agent will have to  hypnotize those dogs and slip in from the shadows, like an embarrassing impulse, a cunning pathogen, a love affair, a shameless thief taking a chance.

        "Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth and Art " (1998)

HB: How do the ancient myths you discuss in "Trickster" take hold in modern urban societies?

LH: The figure of the boundary crosser can operate in any number of contexts. The earliest stories are from hunting and gathering societies, so the cunning is the cunning of the hunt. When the boundary crosser gets placed in an emerging commercial society, the cunning has to do with money and language.

HB: You say that in the stories, coyote, a trickster figure par excellence,  has no nature. He's not defined by a set of given properties; he's a process of invention

LH: There are a lot of stories in which other animals are fishing or hunting, and coyote tries to imitate them and fails. The bear or the kingfisher will say, that's my way; it's not your way. He can imitate but he doesn't have a way of his own. The stories imply an animal that has lost its instinctual knowledge and has to find some other way.