Writing this paper encouraged me to incorporate all of my research skills as an English minor to help make my paper stronger and more cohesive. The reason why I chose to write a paper about tricksters is because I felt a connection. Throughout my middle school years and partially throughout my high school years, I had the mind of a trickster. I would trick others in order to get what I wanted. I was innocent, but also manipulative. During our class discussion about tricksters, we talked about how tricksters symbolize the theory of “Carnivalesque” by Mikkail Bahkkin. This led me to think about my hometown. In general, growing up in New Orleans led me to live in a very “Carnivalesque” atmosphere. Mardi Gras has always been my favorite holiday. It is a celebration before Lent. There is a lot of food, drinks, and debauchery. Many of the floats are decorated to make fun of social hierarchies whether it is a politician, actor, or even the pope. Therefore, not only did I feel like I could relate to the mind of a trickster, but also felt like I could relate to the chaotic atmosphere that a trickster created in order to reach his goal.
For my final paper, I chose Jack and the Bean Stalk by Joseph Jacobs, Cagliuso by Giambattista Basile, and The Wolf and the Fox by the Brothers Grimm. The reason why I decided to do these three stories is that each trickster used the disguise of innocence in order to achieve certain goals. After interpreting all of the stories in my own way, I knew I needed more evidence. I began my research with Jack and the Beanstalk. I wanted to know what made Jack a trickster? I wanted to know more about tricksters in general. After conducting much research, I liked how Robert Benjamin nailed the fundamental purpose of a trickster. The research was exactly what I was looking for. He states, “The fundamental purpose of a trickster and a mediator is the same: to help the characters or parties survive” (Benjamin135). After reading his article, I realized that Jack was the mediator In Jack and the Beanstalk. Jack used his innocence as a disguise to trick the ogres and steal from them to ensure his family’s survival. I thought that this was very interesting and thought to myself how brave Jack was after reading the article. At first when I read Jack and the Beanstalk, I thought that he was selfish and greedy, but after doing my research, I realized Jack was the complete opposite. Also, I was curious to see what else I could learn about tricksters, or what certain animals represented in other cultures. I decided to do my research on cats and foxes to see why these characters were chosen to be tricksters within the stories. I thought that it was interesting that Maria Nikolajeva’s research stated how cats could be seen as carnival figures, but also magical helpers (Nikolajeva 260). I was extremely excited when I found this article because I thought to myself, “Wow, that is the cat in Cagliuso!” The cat employs both the trickster and magical cat aspects of a folklore cat because the cat deceives the king in order to magically help Cagliuso become rich and attain a more satisfying life. After making these connections about the cats in folklore in relation to the cat in Cagliuso, it led me to believe I could make a connection with foxes in folklore to understand the reasoning for the fox in The Wolf and the Fox; which I did, with Will-Erich Peuckeret’s extensive data. I was able to use this research to analyze the red fox in the story as cunning and ingenious, but also a deceiver of the wolf. With the red fox being the deceiver, it helped me to understand Will-Erich’s research of how the red fox is also “wicked” (Uther 138).
After successfully completing the writing portion of my paper, I incorporated images and cited the artists’ work on my reference page. It took me a long time to find these images since I wanted them to be perfect. The reason why I chose the image of Jack climbing down the beanstalk is because it reminded me how Jack used the disguise of innocence in order to trick the ogres to ensure his family’s survival. This picture made me think of Jack as a “mediator” (Benjamin 135). In the picture, he is quickly carrying the gold down the beanstalk away from the ogre to bring to his house at the bottom. When it comes to Cagliuso, the main reason why I chose this picture is because the cat is wearing a skirt. This lets the audience know that the cat is a girl. I wanted the image to be completely different from the Puss in Boots images that I found. In this picture, I thought of the cat as using her seeming of innocence to trick the king into thinking that Cagliuso had his clothes stolen. The image reminded me of Cogley’s interpretation of “the trickster problem”(Cogley 32). The cat relied on the king’s good will throughout the story to get him to go along with her scheme. For The Wolf and the Fox image, I chose this image because the image had an exact quote from the story. I loved this! None of the other images that I chose had quotes and I thought that this made The Wolf and the Fox image stand out from the rest.
Throughout many months of revision on this paper, I think that my project met the goals of this class. I talked about how the characters in these fairy tales reflect cultural beliefs and anxieties about power, especially social hierarchy. I learned how tricksters symbolize aspects of life, such as survival, rebellion, humor, and how things are not as they appear. I was able to relate to the tricksters in the fairy tales, and I believe that everyone has used the disguise of innocence to reach his or her goal.