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Trickster God

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A deity or demigod whose domain encompasses deceit, pranks (including prank punishments for misbehaving), and reversals. Most gods have some shape-shifting and use semantics to betray the spirit of an agreement, but these characters are defined by these stories in a way that other (probably Jerkass) gods aren't.

This trope is Older Than Dirt since it appears in several real life mythologies, where the god's trickery is used as a lesson for the audience. These gods teach indirectly, through inducing/induced hardship, and people learning from it, instead of giving direct instruction. Because of that, they are often associated with storytelling and are as commonly the victim of pranks and mischief as they are the provocateur.

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Sub-Trope of Stock Gods and The Trickster. Other stock gods that overlap with this trope include God of Chaos ("chaos" may encompass randomness, potential, entropy, and destruction/disordered creation), Lady Luck (luck is fickle), and God of Knowledge ("knowledge" may encompass cunning and trickery).


Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • Rat Queens: Castiwyr is introduced as an immortal illusionist who sets elaborate (and potentially lethal) pranks for mortals to alleviate his boredom. He is present in the deities' realm and thus qualifies as a technical god.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1987): Hermes' trickster nature isn't fully evident at first due to his crush on Diana, but it comes out when he's around the other Olympians and Ares makes it clear that he finds it both endearing (when aimed at anyone but himself) and incredibly annoying.
    • Wonder Woman (2011): The New 52's version of Hermes does not have a crush on Diana, which ensures that one of his biggest bits of trickery is against her when he makes it seem they are on the same side and have the same goals while working against her since their goals align to a point.

    Comic Strips 
  • 9 Chickweed Lane: God/"God", an incredibly smug, wormy-looking little man in a suit who previously decided to replace humans with cockroaches because he couldn't stand that such petty things resembled him, starting with a pregnant ex-nun's fetus she gave birth to a perfectly normal baby human girl. Later He talked about quitting his job and letting "the suits" take over and claiming that he prefers the "small talk" of said ex-nun's prayers to "Sister Caligula's" strict performance reviews.
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    Fan Works 
  • Downplayed example in Enlightenments. The god Dormin doesn't consider trickery to be one of their main domains, but they do occasionally tease Wander as the two of them become friends. And they do come up with a pretty impressive bit of misdirection to try and free Wander from his abusive relationship with the Queen of the Castle in the Mist.
  • Message In A Bottle Starscribe: Sarah thinks Discord might be this, since he's powerful enough to be a god:
    Could Discord be more of a cosmic prankster? Maybe his idea of a good joke would be getting her to “betray” Othar in the mind of Forerunner, and get her lined up for recycling.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Mask: The titular mask is supposedly the trapped form of Norse god Loki. Whoever puts on the mask is transformed into an over-the-top version of their "inner selves", with Reality Warper powers.

    Literature 
  • The Divine Cities: Jukov was the trickster Divinity of pleasure, corruption, chaos, madness, rebellion and a few other things. Stories of him playing tricks on his believers, like changing their form or luring them somewhere, abound. His favourite animal was the starling, but he seemed to favour birds in general, often turning himself or his followers into birds.
  • Discworld:
    • Hoki the Jokester, a god who was banished from Dunmanifestin after pulling "the old exploding misteltoe trick" on Blind Io.
    • Scrappy the kangaroo, in The Last Continent, works for the Old Man Who Carries the Universe in a Sack.
      A creature like him appears in many belief systems, although the jolly name can be misleading. Tricksters have that robust sense of humour that puts a landmine under a seat cushion for a bit of a laugh.
  • In the New Jedi Order, Yun-Harla the Trickster is one of the most prominent Yuuzhan Vong deities, alongside her brother Yun-Yammka. Also known as the Cloaked Goddess, because her true form is never seen, she is the patron deity of illusion and deception and her priesthood, known as the Deception Sect, control the Vong's intelligence apparatus. Later in the series, Jaina Solo, herself a twin, starts being associated with Yun-Harla by the Vong; Jaina embraces the role as a form of psychological warfare, in the process becoming something of a trickster herself.

    Myth & Religion 
  • Akan Mythology: Anansi the Spider is often known as the god of stories/knowledge because he tricked sky god Nyame into selling him every story that was ever told. The price was the capture of four dangerous and/or elusive creatures and Anansi promised to deliver five. Many Anansi tales show him being the clever one, and tricking someone else, but many also show Anasi being tricked, if you are clever enough yourself.
  • Aztec Mythology:
    • Huehuecoyotl, aka the Old Coyote, from Aztec Mythos is a shape-shifting trickster known for being equally likely to perpetrate cruel pranks against his fellow gods and mortal alike while also be prone to throwing grand parties as a god of storytelling, music, dance and merriment. Unfortunately for the Old Coyote, Huehuecoyotl's tricks frequently backfire and cause more trouble for himself than the intended victims.
    • Tezcatlipoca subverts the archetype in that he was at the same time an authority figure and a very important one at that. The only times he was really trickster-ish was mainly when he wanted to annoy his brother, Quetzalcoatl. However, he was definitely at the far "god of chaos" end of the trickster archetype much of the time. Alternative names for him translate approximately to things like "he to whom we are his slaves", "change through violence" (likely a reference to revolution), and "enemy of both sides".
  • Native American Mythology:
    • The Coyote plays this role in the legends of the Southwest Native American groups. Depending on the story, he ranges from simply being a clever animal to an outright god. Personality-wise, he ranges from an unreliable-but-friendly ally to humanity, to a too-clever-by-half Jerkass-ButtMonkey who teaches people how to behave by negative example, to the personification of chaos, definitely powerful, but nobody's friend.
    • The Raven fills the role in the Pacific Northwest, where he is an anti-hero sort of deity. His claim to fame would be stealing the sun from its keeper, allowing light to come into the world for the first time ever. The Crow also tends to be a similar archetype, but where the Raven is noble and dignified, the Crow tends to be more of a Too Clever by Half type who's tricks are prone to backfiring on himself because he's rude and arrogant.
  • Norse Mythology:
    • Loki, one of the most famous examples thanks to his appearances in The Mighty Thor and various adaptations. He's a spirit of chaos, and Odin's bloodbrother, who's mostly kept around because he's useful, but ends up causing more trouble than he helps and eventually betrays the gods (though not entirely without reason...)
    • Odin is also a trickster in Norse mythology, though more beloved than Loki. One of Odin's common actions is to hide as a human among mortals and check their hospitality, honor, etc. It's even theorized that Odin and Loki originated as the same character, but the myths evolved to split them so that the negative aspects were all concentrated into Loki.
  • Maui, the demigod from Pacific Mythology, most recently depicted in Moana. Among his achievements were stealing fire from the Underworld (the island goddess Te Fiti's heart in Moana), fishing out New Zealand (and the Hawaiian Islands, and basically every island Polynesians live on) from the ocean, and lassoing and beating the living crap out of the Sun until it agreed to slow down and not streak across the sky so quickly
  • A little-known god is Sibú from the mythology of the Bribri people of Costa Rica. He used his powers to play pranks on demons, like bringing dead animals (that they were about to eat) back to life, and killing his own (demon) grandfather and tricking the other demons into eating him. He later created the earth by tricking his own niece into dancing with demons and then getting trampled to death by them.
  • Classical Mythology has Eris the goddess of discord (whose throwing an apple labeled "For the Fairest" among three goddesses when she wasn't invited to a demigod's wedding was actually the cause of the Trojan War) and a more positive trickster in Hermes. While usually known as the messenger of the gods, he was also known for cunning and inventiveness; his first exploit was stealing the cattle of Apollo, earning him the mantle of god of thieves.

    Live-Action TV 
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    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • In the distant past, the goblin pantheon included a cunning trickster deity. This god was slain alongside almost all the other goblin gods when the deity Maglubiyet slaughtered the goblin, hobgoblin and bugbear pantheons in order to claim their races, but found a way to have the last laugh on its killer. The slain god survived in shattered form as many bodiless spirits, which appear when Maglubiyet commands his followers to assemble into hosts and possess goblins, turning them into the chaotic and destructive nilbogs and giving them magical powers focused on mischief and mockery in order to sow chaos and ridicule in Maglubiyet's forces.
    • Greyhawk has Olidammara, the god of rogues, who delights in creating a bit of mischief amongst those whose lives he judges to be too comfortable, and Zagyg, the god of eccentricity and unpredictability, who just likes making things more complicated for people. They are mostly-friendly rivals, since the best challenge is obviously tricking a fellow trickster. (One of Olidammara's holy days commemorates the time he raided Zagyg's realm, in retaliation for the time Zagyg turned him into an armadillo.)
  • Warhammer: Ranald the Trickster is the Empire's god of thieves, luck and those who live by their wits. Most of his legends involve him making fools out of the other gods, typically by tricking them into doing something stupid or by stealing something important.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Cegorach, the Laughing God of the Eldar, has a strong predilection for achieving his goals by tricking his enemies into doing his job for him — for instance, he once tricked the Outsider, a C'Tan, into eating its fellows, which in one stroke killed off numerous C'Tan and drove the Outsider itself quite insane.
  • World Tree (RPG): Hressh-Huu, goddess of the air and weather, adores tossing wrenches in others' plans and vexing pompous mortals. At her whim, a sudden rainstorm might boil out of the sky to delay a critical message just long enough to send a delicate political situation spiraling out of control, or a document detailing plans for treason might be snatched from a desk by a sudden wind and sent spiraling right into the local duke's office.

    Video Games 
  • Desktop Dungeons: Tikki Tooki likes money (he's the only god that lets you trade Gold for Piety) and appreciates fighting dirty like killing weaker enemies and using poison. He dislikes when you're being predictable by dragging out combat (getting hit by the same enemy more than once) or be cowardly and use Death Protection. As for his boons, he provides bonuses involving First Strike, Dodge chance, Poison, XP gain, and more Gold.
  • Dragon Age: Both the Andrastian Chantry and Corypheus, one of the Magisters, agree on this much; the Old Gods tricked the Magisters Sidereal into entering the Golden City. The difference is what exactly the "trick" was. According to the former, it was persuading them to betray The Maker and corrupt heaven. According to the latter, it was that the Black City was already empty and corrupted before they got there. Word of God is that the Black City was verifiably golden in appearance before the Magisters' attempt to invade it, however, which raises even more questions. There's also Fen'Harel, the Dread Wolf, trickster god of the Elven pantheon, who seems to serve a similar purpose to them as Loki did to the Aesir — solving almost as many problems as he causes before one day he goes too far and gets branded a traitor. As his title suggests, he's now considered a sinister, corrupting influence, preying on the dreams and souls of the elves without mercy after sealing their gods away out of spite. It does not appear to be the whole truth, but the primary source of that claim is Fen'Harel himself.
  • Dungeon Crawl: Nemelex Xobeh is a Chaotic Neutral god who appreciates trickery and gambling, so they give their followers magical decks of cards to use.
  • Hades: Hermes, while being the messenger, is also the god of thieves and is just as prone to trickery as he was in the original myths. He's collaborating with Charon to help Zagreus find Persephone behind the other Olympians' backs.
  • Path of Exile: When passing through a Mirror of Delirium, a "Strange Voice" whispers words directly into the player character. He's hinted to be the trickster god Tangmazu, whose greatest achievement was turning the goddesses of the sun and moon into mortal enemies. His manner of trickery involves instilling paranoia and Gaslighting people into deep despair and mania, repeating phrases to make them sound more sinister.

    Web Video 
  • Critical Role: In the second campaign, Jester is devoted to the Traveler, a god who is curiously not in the official pantheon for Exandria. This is because he's Artagan from the first campaign, who accidentally went from archfey to godhood through posing as one to a young Jester and gained a cult of followers as time went by. When the actual god of Trickery finds out, she isn't too pleased but accepts the transfer of most of Artagan's followers to her.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • When the family travels to Machu Picchu looking for Bart, they find a bush shaped like his head. Homer takes it as the work of Incan god Viracocha, which he calls "that trickster god".
    • After Grampa gets scammed the family has an appetizer-fueled hallucination of Loki, who shows them a few of his alternate forms including Anansi, Coyote, Jesus, Sun Wukong, Bill Cipher, and Mickey Mouse.
  • Discord from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic certainly has godlike power, and even after his reformation never truly lost his mischievous streak.
  • Gargoyles has four of them from various myths and legends show up, explaining that they're all from a race of the Fair Folk called "The Children of Oberon". Coyote falls on the more benevolent side of the scale, while Raven and Anansi are more on the sinister end. Puck usually falls somewhere in the middle. Set is also mentioned in passing, but doesn't appear.
    Greg Weisman: I have some notions about Set, but he's pretty far down my list of priorities. He's basically a Trickster figure (though a nastier one), and I already have four of those to play with.

 
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TWA god of deception

TWA gives his standard blueprints for a trickster god.

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