Native American tricksters can be buffoons, transformers, social critics, teachers, and mediators between human beings, nature, and the gods. A vibrant part of American Indian tradition, the trickster has shown a remarkable ability to adapt into the twenty-first century. In Living Sideways, Franchot Ballinger provides the first full-length study of the diverse roles and dimensions of North American Indian tricksters. While honoring their diversity and complexity, he challenges stereotypical Euro-American treatments of tricksters.
Drawing from the most influential scholarship on Native American tricksters, Ballinger shows how many critics have failed to consider both the specifics of trickster stories and their cultural contexts. Each chapter concentrates on a particular aspect of the trickster theme, such as the trickster's ambiguous personality, the variety of trickster roles, and the trickster's role as social critic. Ballinger further considers issues of sex, gender, and humor, the use of trickster tales as instructions on social values and community control, and the trickster as an emblem of modern Indian survival.
Living Sideways also includes illustrative trickster stories at the end of each chapter, a comprehensive bibliography, and discussion of the literary aspects of tricksters. Examining both the sacred power of tricksters and the stories as literature, Living Sideways is the most thorough book to date on Native American tricksters.