Chapter 24

African and African-American Trickster Stories

The introduction to this chapter explains that African and African-American trickster tales flourished as a response to scarcity and hardship. Although the underlying causes for this were different, the trickster tradition moved with the enslaved Africans to the American South because such storytelling allows audiences to deal with ethical and social dilemmas in a specific way. See for yourself what differences there are between tales from the old world and the new. What would be the effect if the behavior described in these tales became the norm for everyone?

This chapter includes stories performed in Africa, the West Indies, and the American South. In your reading, consider the similarities of oral technique and trickster behavior, as well as the differences. For example, the trickster in these stories often causes disharmony, but this is a part of the audience's enjoyment–vicarious participation in reorienting their world. Also compare the account of storytelling found in this chapter with the account in Chapter 20 of the performance of the Mwindo epic.

As you read, think about why many stories in this tradition feature animals, rather than humans, as characters. Consider the relationship between these animals and those appearing in the Nigerian creation story in Chapter 9. In what ways is the behavior of the Native American Raven (Chapter 23) and the Greek Prometheus (Chapter 25) comparable?

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