The Hero’s Journey: Archetype Series, Part 8 – The Trickster
The Hero’s Journey Archetype series continues with the Trickster archetype.
This series focuses on the Hero’s Journey Archetypes as described in The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler.
For the previous parts, check out:
The Trickster archetype
The Trickster archetype is all about mischief and a desire for change. They’re often the clown-like characters or the comical sidekicks in the story.
Another example is Loki in the Marvel movies. He’s certainly a Shapeshifter, but he’s not the ‘God of Mischief’ without reason.
The Trickster archetype of the Hero’s Journey has several functions. For one, they cut big egos to bring both Heroes and audiences down to earth. They provide laughter, help the audience realize common bonds, and point out folly and hypocrisy.
Most importantly, they bring about change and transformation. They often do this by drawing attention to an imbalance or the absurdity of a stagnant situation. You can find the energy of the Trickster in impish accidents or slips of the tongue that alert us to the need for change. They bring perspective.
Humor is not only necessary when writing a comedy. Even a drama can’t be all drama; we need to laugh at some points or the story will be too heavy.
This is where the Tricksters come in. They give the audience some comic relief.
The Trickster archetype in the Hero’s Journey might be picked up by servants or Allies working for the Hero or Shadow. However, they can also be independent agents with their own agendas.
A character who acts as the Trickster often likes to stir up trouble just for the sake of it.
These characters are often catalyst characters, which means they affect the lives of others while remaining unchanged.
As mentioned in the example of Loki as a Trickster, we can see that he performs multiple roles (as archetypes are masks worn by characters, they’re not the actual characters). He is a real Trickster when serving gods as an advisor while undermining them (cutting down their ego). He also provides comic relief when Thor is the Hero.
In other stories, he’s a Trickster Hero who survives by his wits. And in some of the Norse stories, he turns into a Shadow, leading an army against the gods.
Types of Tricksters
The Trickster Hero is the most common in folktales and fairy tales. These stories pit the defenseless but quick-thinking Hero against much larger and dangerous enemies, such as wolves and hunters. The Trickster Hero wins by outwitting his opponent.
One Trickster Hero who comes to mind is Bugs Bunny. The authors made use of the folktale plots to pit him against hunters and predators who don’t stand a chance against his quick wits.
Heroes often have to wear the mask of a Trickster to outwit the Shadow or to get around a Threshold Guardian.
It can also be fun to turn the tables and show that a Trickster can be outwitted, too. For instance, when the Trickster tries to take advantage of someone weaker. Here, the character is a Trickster Shadow. We can see this in the story The Tortoise and the Hare, where the slower tortoise outwits the hare (who is the Trickster Shadow).
As said before, the Ally of the Hero can also be a Trickster (the Trickster Ally). They are, for instance, the comedic sidekicks in Disney stories or the goofy best friends in romantic comedies.
That’s it for the Trickster archetype of the Hero’s Journey.
The series has now come to an end. You can read about all the different archetype characters in the hero’s journey.
You can use these archetypes in your writing to help bring more depth to your characters. It’s important to keep in mind that the archetypes are fluid; they are masks. It is possible for one character to wear one mask throughout the story, but they don’t have to.
Instead, you can have a character wear multiple masks (such as a Shadow Mentor) or have them switch masks at different points in the story (for instance, a Hero temporarily wearing the mask of Shadow or Trickster).
The most important thing is to have fun with it!
This framework will help you create unique characters who are symbols of the qualities that form a complete human being.
I hope this series has been helpful to your writing so far. If you’ve got any questions, I’m more than happy to answer them and help you along.