Review: Trickster Edited by Matt Dembicki
Title: Trickster: Native American Tales, A Graphic Collection
Editor: Dembicki, Matt
Length: 232 pages
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Graphic Novel
Publisher / Year: Fulcrum Books / 2010
Source: Book Expo America, Fulcrum Books, author signing!
Why I Read It: I saw it in the list of signings and thought it sounded really good. I love folktales, I love North American Folktales, and I keep saying I need to try more Graphic Novels!
Date Read: 02/06/10
I kept seeing graphic novels reviewed by so many bloggers and saying wow, I need to start trying out some of these. And let me just say, I am awful glad that I did, and that I started with this one. This book is a collection of 21 short stories, each by a different storyteller and a different artist. This gives the book a huge breadth of styles and stories which was really interesting to read.
I am reviewing this book with Trisha of Eclectic-Eccentric (her review is here). I will review the first 11 stories, and she will review the last 1o. I’m not really sure how to go about reviewing a graphic novel collection, so I will just provide a general overview of my thoughts.
The fact that each tale had a different writer and artist was probably my favorite part. Each story was quite short, only a few pages long, and was about a Native American tale involving a trickster. So in almost each tale somebody was being tricked.
The cover picture is from the tale Rabbit and the Tug of War. In that tale rabbit tricked two buffalo, and then when they said they would punish him for tricking them by not letting him drink at a waterhole, he tricked them again by borrowing the deer’s shoes to go take a drink.
As this tale shows, these Native American tales don’t all have a moral, and I liked that. it was interesting to read these short, simple trickster tales and have the trickster come out on top sometimes.
A lot of the tales also explained natural landscapes (such as Moshup’s Bridge, where Cheepee tricked Moshup into thinking that it was morning so the bridge – near the Elizabeth Islands – remains as jutting stones rather than a finished land bridge), or animal behaviors.
My favorite story in the collection was the first story, Coyote and the Pebbles. In this story the animals petition the Great Mystery for more light at night. The Great Mystery tells them to get pebbles and draw pictures in the sky… coyote ends up tripping and scattering his pebbles, ruining everyone’s pictures. The scattered pebbles stay as they are, and the pebbles become stars. To this day, you can hear Coyote howling to the Great Mystery at night, asking for another chance to draw in the sky so the other animals will stop being so angry at him.
Other tricksters in these tales include the raven, the racoon, the fox, and the wolf. And to mix things up, there is also a tale where the rabbit tricks the wolf, who is his own trickster in another tale.
One of the tales that does include a moral is Rabbits Choctaw Tail Tale. In this story rabbit talks and talks and talks way too much. He tries to convince the fox to give him some of his fish, but instead, the fox convinces him to go ice fishing. He explains that he should use his tail to catch the fish. In the end his tail becomes frozen in the ice, and that is why rabbits have short stumpy tails. This story’s moral is not to talk too much, or you might lose your tail. I can breathe easy as I don’t have a tail to lose!
The last tale I will highlight is Azban and the Crayfish. Azban is a tricky raccoon who really wants to eat crayfish. In this story he tricks the crayfish into thinking that he is dead. They come out of the water and dance around him. Once they fall asleep, he has a huge feast. The story ends with this (on page 46):
Since there are still crayfish in the world today, it is obvious that some of them escaped… perhaps all of those who survived also taught their children that it is unwise to be too quick to celebrate the misfortunes of their enemies. For ever since then, no crayfish has ever been seen singing or doing a victory dance again!
I thought that was pretty cute, so wanted to include it.
Overall, a great collection of short and simple tales. Definitely worth picking up both for the stories and for the great art.