I have to say I thought I would like this a lot more than I really did. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed reading the more uncommon tales and the fact that something like this exists is really cool – I just felt, for the majority of the stories, incredibly unsatisfied by both the retellings and the artwork. However, I still think it’s worth posting because, it is a collection of short stories drawn from Native American myth and has the potential to inspire further reading in this arena, or potentially rewriting or writing alternative endings, even trying to figure out the point or moral of the story could inspire discussion. After reading multiple other reviews I find that I am not alone in having wanted to like this book but being, in general, disappointed.
Trickster is a graphic collected of 21 Native American Trickster Tales (everyone’s favourite! Right?) that have been re-imagined in a comic anthology format. Each tale is told by a different author/illustrator pair and many of the authors and illustrators are actually Native American – so, whoo! Diversity and hearing stories less told. Excellent.
What I found a little jarring was the disparity of the quality between the tales. Some of the stories were of substantial length with a full circle plot and a clear story and point. While some of them were short, had no point, were disappointing in their ending. The art as well was an incredibly huge range some were drawn in a stylized or very artistic way, there were many that were very cartoony or very… amateur looking.
Overall I did enjoy the variety of forms that the trickster can take! Humans, beavers, fox, raven, rabbit, coyote, wolf, female, male – excellent. Some of the stories had troubling and problematic resolutions. When coyote is seeking a wife and the prettiest girl (who loves someone else) is discovered to be “unpure” and all the people are turned to stone… well, I realize these stories are a product of their time and their cultures but, that was it. There was no recourse for coyote or the people… I wanted just a little bit more from this story, a conclusion with a discussion, something redeeming on the part of the girl or the trickster… or even, who was the trickster in this tale? So, while many times I didn’t mind having my expectations turned on their head – there were times when I was entirely unhappy with the resolution.
Is that a narrow-minded thing to require of stories that have their roots in ancient myth from a culture I don’t belong to? Perhaps. I think I was expecting the retellings and the graphics to deliver a little something new and a little something contemporary and just more than what they did. What they did do was introduce the tales in a … sort of… palatable way to younger readers.
As this is clearly meant to capture and educate readers about Native American tales I would have particularly enjoyed annotations for each tale detailing the geographical region and the origin of the tale, which people told this tale (or how many different kinds) as for many of the tales, you have to go to the mini-biographies at the end to figure out to which tribe the stories belong. This might have helped me, and other readers, enjoy the stories as I went along.
Overall, the stories vary thematically, some could be useful for instruction, some are origin stories, many are both. Some will appeal visually, but not narratively, and vice versa. Some will be easy to glean meaning from, others are trickier and often too short. Tricksters are not the easiest of characters to interpret, and some of the narrative styles emulate the trickster point of view, leaving the reader to unravel meaning.
Despite the negatives, I think it is worth taking some time with these stories. There are some familiar threads that run throughout the entire collection. As far as a way to intrigue readers and storytellers, teachers and parents alike into further research of Native American tales and the trickster figure, Trickster is a kind of treasure.