In the study of mythology, folklore and religion, a trickster is a god, goddess, spirit or human hero who breaks the rules of the gods or nature, sometimes maliciously (for example, Loki) but usually with ultimately positive effects. Often, the rule-breaking takes the form of tricks (eg. Eris) or thievery. Tricksters can be cunning or foolish or both; they are often very funny even when considered sacred or performing important cultural tasks.

In many cultures, such as Norse or Slavic folktales and Native American/First Nations lore, the trickster and the culture hero are combined. To illustrate, Prometheus, in Greek mythology, stole fire from the gods to give it to humans. He is more of a culture hero than a trickster. In many Native American and First Nations mythologies, the coyote (Southwestern United States) or raven (Pacific Northwest and British Columbia) stole fire from the gods (stars or sun) and are more tricksters than culture heroes. This is primarily because of other stories involving these spirits: Prometheus was a Titan, whereas coyote and raven are usually seen as jokesters and pranksters.

Among Native Americans, and First Nations, the trickster figures often exhibit gender variability, changing gender roles and engaging in same-sex practices. These personages are said to have a two-spirit nature.

In modern society, tricksters are also known as people who combine martial arts and acrobatics as a sport. There are many variations of this. One of these variations is called kinjutsu (literally:forbidden techniques).

The Trickster is an example of a Jungian Archetype. The Fool survives in modern playing cards as the Joker.

Tricksters in Various Cultures

Abenaki mythology ... Azeban

Haida mythology ... Nankil'slas (Raven spirit), (Coyote)

Akan mythology ... Kwaku Ananse

Hawaiian mythology ... Kappa, Maui

American folklore ... Brer Rabbit

Hopi and Zuni mythology ... Kokopelli

Ashanti mythology ... Ananse

Inuit mythology ... Amaguq

Australian Aboriginal mythology ... Bamapana

Japanese mythology ... Kitsune, Susanoo

Aztec mythology ... Tezcatlipoca

!Kung mythology ... Mantis

Basque mythology ... San Martin Txiki

Lakota mythology ... Iktomi

Brazilian Folklore ... Saci-PererĂª

Navajo mythology ... Tonenili

Celtic mythology ... Fairy, Puck

Nootka mythology ... Chulyen, Guguyni

Chinese mythology ... Nezha, Sun Wukong (the Monkey King)

Norse mythology ... Loki

Chippewa mythology ... Nanabozho

Northwest Caucasian mythology ... Sosruko

Christian mythology ... Jacob

Ojibwe mythology ... Nanabush

Crow mythology ... Awakkule, Mannegishi

Polynesian mythology ... Iwa, Kaulu, Maui, Ono, Pekoi

French folklore ... Reynard the Fox

Tibetan folklore ... Agu Tonpa

Fijian mythology ... Ndauthina

Ute mythology ... Cin-an-ev

German folklore ... Till Eulenspiegel

Vodun ... Ti Malice

Greek mythology ... Eris, Prometheus, Hephaestos, Hermes Trismegistus

Yoruba mythology ... Eshu

Modern Day Tricksters:

  • Bugs Bunny
  • Michael Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius (a Harlequin-like character)
  • Hoki the Jokester and Agi Hammerthief in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels
  • The Woodsie Lord, also called simply The Trickster, god of the pagans in the Thief game series.
  • Q from Star Trek.
  • Superman's implike tormentor Mr. Mxyzptlk
  • Jerry from Tom & Jerry
  • Captain Jack Sparrow from "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl"
  • Spider-Man