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The Trickster
aka: Trick Ster
This can't end well.

Aelius: I think that if someone tried to rob you in the street, you'd pick his pocket, sell him a better knife and probably offer him a job as a tax collector.
Basso: I choose to take that as a compliment.

A trickster is a character who plays tricks or otherwise disobeys normal rules and conventional behavior. The Trickster openly questions and mocks authority, encourages impulse and enthusiasm, seeks out new ideas and experiences, destroys convention and complacency, and promotes chaos and unrest. At the same time, the trickster brings new knowledge, wisdom and many An Aesop. Even when punished horribly for his effrontery, his indomitable spirit (or plain sheer foolishness) keeps him coming back for more.

Tricksters can be anything from gods of chaos, bedeviling heroes for a few laughs, to master manipulators who use cruel ploys and sadistic choices. They can also be heroes (or more likely Anti-Heroes) who make up for a lack of strength or bravery with manipulation, planning, or just plain cheating. The trickster is often a Master of Disguise and may have magical or super-powers. They're often found Walking the Earth.

In mythology and religion, the trickster deity breaks the rules of the gods or nature, sometimes maliciously but usually, albeit unintentionally, with ultimately positive effects. Often, the bending/breaking of rules takes the form of tricks or thievery, and their actions often end up changing the rules in the process of breaking them, much like an act of "civil disobedience". Tricksters can be cunning or foolish or both; they are often funny even when considered sacred or performing important cultural tasks. Despite this nuanced characterisation, tricksters are unfortunately prone to being Hijacked By Satan in modern adaptations.

In modern literature the trickster survives as a character archetype. Often too, the Trickster is distinct in a story by his acting as a sort of catalyst, in that his antics are the cause of other characters' discomfiture, but he himself is left untouched.

The Trickster is NOT the same as the Jerkass. While the Trickster may be mischievous, impudent and uppity, he is not necessarily openly malevolent or sociopathic; in fact, in many cases (Prometheus, for example) Tricksters are more friendly to humanity than the gods are.

Compare Messianic Archetype and The Fool. May overlap with Nominal Hero, particularly if the trickster is doing it purely for fun.

Sub Tropes


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Edward Elric definitely fits this trope himself, especially when dealing with more corrupt alchemists.
  • And ultimately, The Truth, aka God of the setting. All his sadistic glee in claiming the hefty toll was replaced with real joy that Ed finally learned the ultimate lesson, that alchemy isn't everything.
  • Xelloss in The Slayers. He even refers to himself as a "trickster priest." ("fuzaketa puriisto", "the playful priest"; sometimes translated as "roguish priest" or "mysterious priest".)
  • In Mayo Chiki!, Kanade runs circles around most other characters. Or make them run circles around her, at any rate.
  • Niou Masaharu from The Prince of Tennis. It's even his in-universe nickname.

     Collectible Card Games 
  • In the Yu-Gi-Oh! OCG, the Ghosttrick Archetype's effects revolve around flipping monsters face-down and protecting themselves as long as they are face-down. In effect, they act like pranksters or mischievous spirits: popping out and scaring people, then running away and hiding.

    Comic Books 
  • Spider-Man, whose actions end up teaching him his own wisdom.
  • Deadpool is an insane mercernary, so he does odd things and disrepects authority, but cops are okay, provided they're not trying to arrest him.
  • Mr. Mxyzptlk from Superman. Which, interestingly enough, leads to Superman having to resort to trickster methods just to get rid of him.
  • Jaeger of the aboriginal sci-fi comic Finder. Although he seems random and impetuous, his behavior is bound by the code of the titular super-scouts, but also his designation as a ritual scapegoat in his mother's native culture.
  • V, though a rather dark one.
  • Plastic Man, according to some people interviewed for the 80s cartoon DVD of the titular character, serves as a trickster in the DC Comics mythos of heroes.
  • Sam & Max's titular duo functions as one of these - Max provides the impulsiveness, Sam provides the Aesop and they both contribute to the chaos.
  • Loki, Marvel's version of the Norse God of Mischief and Lies. Varies from out-and-out villain to anti-hero, depending on the writer and the incarnation (for example, de-aged Loki is a lot less malevolent than his previous, older self).
  • The Cloud Gremlins in My Little Pony Micro Series Issue #2 . Doesn't help their quoting the appropriate Shakespeare play too.
  • Maelstrom, Cosmic Marvel's version.
    I can't feed you to a giant demonic dragon if you're asleep! Where would the fun be in that?

     Fanfiction 

    Film 
  • Many of the characters Eddie Murphy has portrayed are Tricksters.
  • The Mask (explicitly linked to Loki) and most other characters played by Jim Carrey, some mentioned elsewhere on this page, some not - such as Andy Kaufman (Man on the Moon), a Real Life trickster figure who would be called a troll today.
  • From Star Wars:
    • Han Solo, to a degree. In the Brian Daley novels he pulls a wide array of tricks, with a playfulness that nicely offsets his grimmer, mercenary side.
    • Yoda. Though he would technically be more along the lines of Trickster Mentor, it's usually assumed that he likes practical jokes for their own value, too.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Jack Sparrow. Captain Jack Sparrow. In the commentary of the first film, during the scene where he tricks the two Interceptor guards into arguing, allowing him to slide out of the frame, sneak aboard and get behind the wheel before they even realise he's gone, the writers joke that they consider this scene akin to a Bugs Bunny cartoon.
  • You need a name with a bit of style. Mixed with... romance. Something like... Valentine.
  • Tyler Durden of Fight Club is a more malicious, destructive example.
  • Reg Dunlop from Slap Shot, as he hoodwinks a town.
  • Meeko from Pocahontas, although he's a bit less of trickster and more of an outright thief.
  • The short comedy Harold Of Orange was made to show how this trope would be played out in Real Life.
  • Mr. Nick from The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Yes, he's the Devil but he seems more interested in playing games than damning souls, to the extent that he actually tries to prevent Parnassus' daughter from going into Hell and when she does says, "Damn, I won" in a tone of regret.
  • Thor has Loki, the on-screen incarnation of the comic book character of the same name who, in turn, was based on the Norse God of trickery and chaos. When he returns post-banishment in The Avengers, he's decidedly less tricksterish, being now bent on revenge and subjugating Earth. In Thor: The Dark World Loki is more tricksy than ever, and his powers of illusion drive much of the plot.

    Literature 
  • Scrappy the kangaroo from The Last Continent. Acknowledged in exposition as a trickster god and therefore the sort of guy who puts a land mine under a seat cushion for a bit of a chuckle.
  • Other Discworld trickster gods are Hoki the Jokester (banned from Dunmanifestin for pulling "the old exploding misteltoe trick") and the dwarfish mine-spirit Agi Hammerthief.
  • Randal Patrick McMurphy from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The novel's author, Ken Kesey, was something of a real-life example as well: he helped kick-start the hippie movement and drove around America in a painted bus handing out hallucinogens like candy. Then when he was on the run from the police he fled to Mexico and later went back over the border on horseback dressed as a cowboy.
  • The Meddler of the Firekeeper novels, who is known for having seemingly good intentions but never stopping to consider the consequences.
  • The Marquis of Carabas in Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. He is named after the alias used by Puss In Boots, a Trickster character in his own right.
  • Neil also wrote his own story about Anansi, going by the name of Charlie Nancy. He has... well, two sons who inherit his powers.
  • Neal Stephenson very evidently likes to both use and reference this archetype; Hiro Protagonist is a Trickster/Technologist in Snow Crash, as are many of the key figures of both Cryptonomicon and The Diamond Age. In The Diamond Age, The Hacker is explicitly namechecked as a modern trickster archetype, and in Cryptonomicon Enoch Root discusses with Randy the way various cultures have interpreted the archetype - from worship (Athena) to deep distrust (Loki). Root himself plays the role of Trickster Mentor in The Baroque Cycle. Jack Shaftoe is the Trickster in spades as is, to a lesser extent, Eliza
  • In Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, Tabaqui the Jackal.
    "All thanks for this good meal," he said, licking his lips. "How beautiful are the noble children! How large are their eyes! And so young too! Indeed, indeed, I might have remembered that the children of kings are men from the beginning."
    Now, Tabaqui knew as well as anyone else that there is nothing so unlucky as to compliment children to their faces. It pleased him to see Mother and Father Wolf look uncomfortable.
  • Kyprioth is the trickster god of Tamora Pierce's Daughter of the Lioness but the human Aly gives him a run for his money.
  • Paladine in the Dragonlance novels. His greatest trick was doubtless passing himself off as the god of law, majesty, and nobility.
  • Robin Goodfellow in the Cal Leandros series. His species is a puck.
  • Aiken Drum in Julian May's Saga of the Exiles, exiled for such pranks as altering a dam's configuration so that a giant penis sticks out of it, peeing water. and that's before he gets super powers
  • Willy Wonka of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (and its many adaptations) is a Trickster Mentor and the trope namer for another trickster subtrope — The Wonka.
  • In Harry Potter:
    • Fred and George Weasley are famous setting off pranks in Hogwarts. They later open a joke shop, thereby becoming professional tricksters.
    • Dumbledore has shades of the Trickster Mentor.
    • Peeves is also a good example, but the Twins prove their superiority when, in Book Five, they leave and order Peeves to "Give her (Umbridge) hell from us." And Peeves salutes!
  • Foxface in The Hunger Games, known for being Too Clever by Half.
  • The Shapeshifting Gloamglozer in The Edge Chronicles. The creature itself admits to being "a trickster, a liar, a cheat and a fraud."
  • Warrior Cats has Sol. In addition to his life of travelling the earth to screw things up in as many places as possible, he has actually once been called a trickster in the books.
  • Repairman Jack. Even though he's an "urban mercenary" he prefers using his wits to solve a problem than violence and his violent solutions often show a twisted sense of humor.
  • In John C. Wright's The Golden Age, The Phoenix Exultant, and The Golden Transcedence, the Neptunians. All of them. They live that far out to live a wild life in which sending people computer viruses is considered high spirits. In The Golden Transcedence, Diomedes comments that he would steal a ship to carry out their plan, but he's surprised that inner-system people like Phaethon and Atkins would.
  • Colin from the post-Apocalypse novel Malevil. Shrewd, often a pain in the ass, and as Emmanuel's favorite friend allowed to get away with a lot.
  • In Rafael Sabatini's Scaramouche, Andre-Louis plays this role on stage and in life. This aspect of the character comes out even more so in the 1952 film.
  • Tzigone from Counselors and Kings is a highly intelligent and playful street performer/thief (with latent magical abilities, though she really only starts developing those in the second and third books) who enjoys mocking her stratified society and overturning its rules wherever possible. Unlike some tricksters, though, when push comes to shove she's plainly one of the good guys.
  • Robin Goodfellow from An Elegy for the Still-living talks in riddles, plays practical jokes, manipulates anyone he can get his hands on and implies that he is the Anthropomorphic Personification of the Trickster Archetype.
  • Harry Dresden of The Dresden Files believes himself to be this, but Murphy points out that he's actually very predictable, despite his occasional surpassing cleverness; he just has authority problems.
  • Zosim the Trickser God is a minor member of the pantheon in Shadowmarch, though he's ultimately revealed to be the Big Bad, manipulating everybody to try and become top god. Interestingly, though the rest of his pantheon are clear counterparts to the Greco-Roman gods, Zosim himself resembles Loki far more than he does Hermes.
  • In Rainbows End, Mr. Rabbit deliberately invokes this archetype, teasing both friends and foes with his technological prowess and bizarre sense of humor. In the on-line world, he is nearly a god, and he likes to leave virtual carrot ends in other people's virtual worlds.
  • In the New Jedi Order, the goddess Yun-Harla is a trickster venerated by the Yuuzhan Vong and is one of their premier deities (to the point that most of the Vong's intelligence network is actually overseen by her priests, the deception sect). Midway through the series, Jaina Solo (Han and Leia's daughter) begins deliberately taking on aspects of Yun-Harla to mess with the Vong's heads and becomes a trickster in her own right as a result.
  • In the Doctor Who New Adventures novel Love and War, the 25th century New Age Travellers have a trickster god they just call the Trickster (who doesn't appear to be related to the The Sarah Jane Adventures character). During Jan's vision quest, he appears to Jan as "Arlan Jardolz, the Betalan comedian" and to Ace as Vic Reeves.
  • Hirahim Lightfoot in the cosmology of David Weber's The War Gods. Notable in that unlike other deities who were created or fathered by the head deity Orr, he appeared from nowhere and not even Orr seems to know his origins.
  • Lestat de Lioncourt, brat prince, from The Vampire Chronicles.
  • In the Rainbow Magic series, Trixie the Halloween Fairy and Addison the April Fool's Day Fairy are fond of pranks and tricking people.
  • The Reynard Cycle: Much like his Beast Fable counterpart, Reynard is this in spades. He particularly enjoys Batman Gambits.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire gives us a smorgasbord of Trickster-types running the full spectrum from "light hearted" to "sodding dangerous"... although quite a lot weight towards the dangerous; Gadflys, snarkers and Trolls abound. Included are the court Fools, Bards or Mummers like Moon Boy, Patchface, Butterbumps and Marrillion, as well the historical Florian and the Blue Bard who either have been trained to include sanctioned havoc in their acts or otherwise make it part of their living in various shapes. Tyrion Lannister could have wound up as a Fool, himself, were it not for being born a Lannister as well as a dwarf (however, he's not exactly escaped the trope, given his propensity to be a reactive, tricksome blighter of epic proportions). In fact, to get ahead in both Westeros and Essos, it pays to have an extensive bag of tricks up your sleeve and a will to use them — no matter who you may be. As a result, few major players don't have shades of the grifter and Trickster to them: even those infamously without much of a sense of humour... eh, Lord Tywin or Lord Stannis? However, arguably the two biggest and straightest ones are Lord Petyr Baelish and "Lord" Varys. Both play others for their own ends using misdirection and any other means going, while being sardonic wits of the highest order. The major difference between them seems to be how much chaos they're willing to spread to achieve their goals and why. Varys seems to view collateral damage as a Necessary Evil to bring long-term stability. Petyr? It's all part of his Game: the more the merrier.
  • Journey To Chaos: Tasio the Trickster flies in and out of mortal life, bring hope or despair as he fanices. One of his many names is "Overturner of Fortune" to reflect this. On an average day, he's just a pest.

    Live Action TV 
  • Gaius Baltar from Battlestar Galactica, although more out of desperation than anything.
  • Rumplestiltskin in Once Upon a Time. Very, very much so — and he's pulled his tricks on everyone.

    Opera 
  • The eponymous character in The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro (it's the same guy). At the time of publishing "Marriage" (the sequel in canon, but made into an opera long before the first story), this kind of character being the lead in an opera was unheard of. Combined with Figaro being a commoner, it caused quite a stir in the music world. Needless to say, now they're some of the most beloved and famous operas in the world.
  • The titular Gianni Schicchi is this trope amped to ridiculous levels. His Gambit Pileup he makes up on the fly, hinging on the other characters' greed both for him to prevail in the end and get off with impunity.
  • An incredibly dark version of this is Iago from Othello (sometimes spelled Otello for the opera).

    Tabletop Games 
  • Lunar Exalted. Quoth Robert "The Demented One" Vance:
    Raksha are the drunken sorority girls to the Lunar's fratboy, except the Lunar's fratboy is a world-walking trickster-god werewolf.
  • Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine: Rinley, the Troublemaker. Rinley's job is twofold: first, to be The Heart and provide a social glue holding the group together; and two, to mess with them in the process. If you need someone to break into a building through a window it doesn't actually have, switch people's hearts, push a pompous character like Leonardo into a koi pond or tell a story so convincing it deceives even people who saw what actually happened, you should get Rinley to do it.
  • The player's characters in Kitsune: Of Foxes and Fools are Kitsune playing tricks on mortals to gain the approval of the Kitsune Elders.

    Theater 
  • Pseudolus from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is an amalgam of every character of this type in Plautus. His name means "liar", by the way.
  • In some of Tomson Highway's plays, Nanabush is a prominent character but can either not be seen or fully recognized by most characters in part symbolizing a loss and marginalization of (Canadian) native culture.
  • Cirque du Soleil's KOOZA doesn't mess around — its Gentleman Snarker trickster figure is named The Trickster. Other trickster figures in Cirque include:

    Video Games 
  • Dimentio from Super Paper Mario manages to combine this with Monster Clown.
  • Illidan Stormrage from World of Warcraft: He managed to deceive demon lords and to gain their powers (The vision of Sargeras, for example). He had a cunning and inventive intellect- he was the first demon hunter, using the powers of the Burning Legion against itself. His "gift" for the nightelves slightly reminds at the Titan Prometheus, too. The arcane is compareable to fire: It can lead both to high cultural advantages (the elves of the magical kingdom Quel'thalas were admired even by the mages of Dalaran for their perfection in the arcane arts) and immense destruction). Additionally, Illidan had traits of an Anti-Hero.
    • Actually, the Night Elves already had magic, but abandoned it after nearly destroying Azeroth by overusing/abusing it. Prometheus did bring fire to the humans, while Illidan brought hellfire to the Night Elves.
  • Kefka from Final Fantasy VI falls squarely into the "evil trickster" mold, then becomes something even worse.
  • Juppo and Meg from the Suikoden series are "tricksters" by occupation.
  • In Remember 11, Yuni is (rightfully) called Trickster in the opening credits, to go with the game's Jungian tones.
  • Pokémon Black and White introduces us to Zorua/Zoroark and Cottonee/Whimsicott. Cottonee has Prankster as one of its abilities, and Zorua can actually disguise itself as another Pokémon to trick its enemies.
  • Lance Galahad sure is one in Brain Dead 13, especially when he plays a few ones on Fritz from the very beginning.
  • In The Elder Scrolls Lorkhan, the god that a lot of things trace back to, is said to be this. It's a trait shared by some of the beings closely related to him.

    Web Comics 
  • April Fools' Day in the webcomic Holiday Wars is a shapeshifting prankster.
  • Coyote and Reynardine (based somewhat on the above-mentioned Reynard the Fox) from Gunnerkrigg Court.
  • Chaos of Life And Death. Plays cross-dimensional golf, teaches people to hold their tempers in the most obnoxious way possible, and can be a show off. DO NOT piss him off though.
  • Mermaids are, as a culture, deliberately annoying. In an inversion of typical sirens, mermaid musicians can actually cause shipmen to suicide crash simply due to the utter cacophony.
    "I know! To regain our surprise, let's perform Morning Screams!"
  • ''Homestuck:
    • ''John Egbert. You cannot hope to beat Egbert in a prank-off. He is simply the best there is. It also seems to run in the family.
    • A more supernatural example in the vein of Coyote is Godcat, who is just as likely to teleport you into a paddock across town in the middle of a heavy rainstorm for giggles as he is to save you from an explosion by summoning a convenient couch floating in midair.
  • In Koan Of The Day, the tortoise is a Trickster, able to easily subvert another's beliefs.
  • In The Water Phoenix King, the goddess Ailari, patron of travelers, messengers, merchants, inns, freedom, and fortune. Her various servants and champions all embody these aspects in different ways, starting with Anthem's protests that she's nobody's servant, thankyouverymuch, and Gilgam's shameless Rules Lawyering and outright deceptions to see justice done without giving her away. (Vish even has Hermes' winged sandals, for all his Lawful inclinations.)
    Vish: ...Lady Luck. My Goddess. Yours now. Sanctifier of Journeys, Lady of Crossroads, Gallows-Girl of Thieves and the Courts of Night.
  • Nudge from Wapsi Square is a classic trickster. She eventually discovers that she is the kind of trickster who makes people want to punch her.

    Web Original 
  • Liz Polanski. Oh Liz. This is a character who starts out her game Obfuscating Insanity by slicing the head off a dead body and carrying it around, smearing her face with makeup, and overall trying to make herself look as Ax-Crazy as possible in front of other students so they'll leave her alone. She then one-ups herself by pouring melted aluminum all over her collar to deactivate it. And it works.
  • The YouTube parodies of Der Untergang turn Hermann Fegelein into a Trickster Arch-Enemy of Hitler. Everything that goes wrong in the Third Reich can be attributed to Fegelein and his antics. Himmler helps him out on it too on at least one occasion, and is pretty explicitly said in the parodies to also have been a major trickster.
  • While Beltane and Thorn both see themselves as tricksters among the students at Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe, they are nothing compared to Sun Wu Kong, who has been plaguing Bladedancer ever since his first appearance.
  • Hermes shows up in the 7th Chrono Hustle story. While it is his status as messenger of the Gods that is in play, his trickster tendencies show up as well.

    Western Animation 
  • Br'er Rabbit from Song of the South and the original stories. In Disney's adaptation, and all adaptations since then, the pronunciation has been "brayer", as if it were a mispronunciation of "brier", when, in actuality, "Br'er" is supposed to be pronounced as "bruh", meaning "Brother". This character is deconstructed in Ralph Bakshi's Coonskin, where "Br'er" is correctly pronounced.
  • Digeri Dingo from Taz-Mania. He often tricks Taz into doing dangerous things for his own profit. To keep him from being The Scrappy, he's got some of the wittiest, most hilarious lines in the series and could possibly fall into Ensemble Dark Horse status because of this.
  • Gargoyles has Puck. "What fools these mortals be!" Coyote, Raven and Anansi. Xanatos (yes, that Xanatos) very much patterns himself after the mythological trickster. On his website, Greg Weisman was once asked about including the Egyptian god Seth, and noted that "He's basically a Trickster figure[...]and I already have four of those to play with."
  • Word Of God describes The Spectacular Spider Man versions of Spidey himself and the Green Goblin this way.
  • In Xiaolin Showdown, one of the first things Raimundo does is pants Omi and complain about the mat beds.
  • The Magic Man from Adventure Time lives solely to knock heroes down a peg.
  • Discord from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic looks and acts like a Trickster, but beneath it there's a hidden side of malice. Also, when push comes to shove and trickery fails, he's not above just Cutting the Knot to get what he wants. Princess Celestia from the same show is a good version of this trope; fans don't call her "Trollestia" for nothing.
  • T.J. Detweiler from Recess. King Bob was this as well before he became king of the playground.


Turn CoatArchetypal CharacterWicked Stepmother
The StoicStock CharactersCon Man
The StoicNarrative TropesVillains
Tragic MistakeLit. Class TropesUnreliable Narrator
Tricking the ShapeshifterOlder Than FeudalismTrojan Prisoner
Too Quirky To LoseCharactersTropes About Perverts
The Stool PigeonImageSource/Western AnimationWartime Cartoon

alternative title(s): Trickster; Tricksters; Trickster Archetype
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