O’ TRICKSTER WHERE ART THOU The Coen Brother’s Film & The Trickster Myth in The Odyssey Brought to you by:
THE ODYSSEY IN “O BROTHER WHERE ARTTHOU?”• Joel and Ethan Coen brothers based their movie on Homer’s Odyssey
Odysseus the TricksterOdysseus is often the primemythological story used toillustrate Campbell’s monomyth,“The Hero’s Journey.”Yet, mythologists also seeOdysseus as a classic trickstercharacter.
What is a Trickster?A Trickster is a mischievous orroguish figure in myth or folklorewho typically makes up for physicalweakness with cunning andsubversive humor. The Tricksteralternates between cleverness andstupidity, kindness and cruelty,deceiver and deceived, breaker oftaboos and creator of culture.(americanfolklore.net)
What is a Trickster?Lewis Hyde: “Trickster is aboundary-crosser" He (or she) isoften a traveler, breaking societalrules. Tricksters cross lines,breaking or blurring connectionsand distinctions between "right andwrong, sacred and profane, cleanand dirty, male and female, youngand old, living and dead.“ Hyde, Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998, 7. Michael Webster, faculty.gvsu.edu/websterm
ODYSSEUS THE TRICKSTER• Hyde: • Odysseus is a master of the art of lying • He is referred to as “polytropic,” by Homer: wily, versatile, much-traveled, “turning many ways.”
ULYSSES EVERETT MCGILL: ODYSSEUS • (IMDB) McGill is the leader of a trio of escaped convicts in pursuit of treasure stored at McGills family cabin.
ULYSSES EVERETT MCGILL: ODYSSEUSOpening lines of The Odyssey: “Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns driven time and again off course, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy. Many cities of men he saw and learned their minds, many pains he suffered, heartsick on the open sea, fighting to save his life and bring his comrades home.”
Odysseus/ McGill asTricksterHyde:A trickster, polytropic manis: “shifty as an octopus,coloring himself to fit hissurroundings, putting on afresh face for each man orwoman he meets,charming, disarming, andnot to be trusted.” (35)
Odysseus/ McGill asthe TricksterHyde:“The trickster is amoral, not immoral, He embodies and enacts thatlarge portion of our experience where good and evil are hopelesslyintertwined.” (10)
Odysseus/ McGill as the Trickster Tommy Johnson: “I had to be up at that there crossroads last midnight, to sell my soul to the devil.” Ulysses Everett McGill: Well, aint it a small world, spiritually speaking. Pete and Delmar just been baptized and saved. I guess Im the only one that remains unaffiliated.
TRICKSTERS: QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER• The tricky role of tricksters: • Why do the trickster characters vary from culture to culture, and what do tricksters say about the boundaries within a particular society? • Why do tricksters act mainly on physical appetites, and what can this tell us about people? • What do trickster figures teach humans, if anything?• Tricksters in contemporary popular culture • Who are some characters from film, TV, plays, etc. who could be considered tricksters? • How do they embody "all of the infinite ambiguities of what it is to be alive in this world" (Myth & Knowing, p. 250)? Be specific.• Is the Devil a Trickster? Why or Why not?