The University of Wisconsin Press

Trickster and Hero
Two Characters in the Oral and Written Traditions of the World
Harold Scheub

“This is an exciting and ambitious book, one that brings African, European, and North American trickster tales into comparison and perspective.”
—Elizabeth Fine, Virginia Tech

The trickster and the hero, found in so many of the world’s oral traditions, are seemingly opposed but often united in one character. Trickster and Hero provides a comparative look at a rich array of world oral traditions, folktales, mythologies, and literatures—from The Odyssey, The Epic of Gilgamesh, and Beowulf to Native American and African tales. Award-winning folklorist Harold Scheub explores the “Trickster moment,” the moment in the story when the tale, the teller, and the listener are transformed: we are both man and woman, god and human, hero and villain.

Scheub delves into the importance of trickster mythologies and the shifting relationships between tricksters and heroes. He examines protagonists that figure centrally in a wide range of oral narrative traditions, showing that the true hero is always to some extent a trickster as well. The trickster and hero, Scheub contends, are at the core of storytelling, and all the possibilities of life are there: we are taken apart and rebuilt, dismembered and reborn, defeated and renewed.

author photoHarold Scheub is professor of African languages and literature at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is author of many books, including Story; The Tongue Is Fire: South African Storytellers and Apartheid; and The Poem in the Story; and the editor of African Tales and of The World and the Word: Tales and Observations from the Xhosa Oral Tradition.

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Of Related Interest:
an old photo of an African woman gesturing is split and paired to evoke the storytellerAfrican Tales
Compiled by Harold Scheub

Harold Scheub, one of the world's leading scholars of African folktales, compiles the broadest collection yet assembled with tales from the entire continent of Africa, north to south. It brings together mythic, fantastic, and coming-of-age tales, some transcribed more than a hundred years ago, others dating to modern-day Africa.

December 2012
LC: 2012013283 GR
232 pp.   6 x 9  

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Paper $29.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-29074-0
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Trickster and Hero is a remarkable work. Learned, it speaks to any reader; complex, it doesn’t simplify the difficulties of its object and aim; comparatist, it avoids judgment in the representation of diverse cultures. This is a contemporary work done by a scholar who is very attentive to the history of the field.”
—V-Y Mudimbe, Duke University

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Updated January 13, 2013

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