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1 The vast majority of tricksters are male. For a discussion of gender issues concerning the trickster, see Hyde 337-343.
2 The advocates of this approach are, for instance, T. O. Beidelman; Anne Doueihi, who criticizes the ethnocentric nature of the comparative approach and its (particularly Western) cultural bias; and Gerald Vizenor who argues in his essay “Trickster Discourse: Comic Holotropes and Language Games” that the trickster is a communal sign which cannot be understood in isolation. That is, he cannot be abstracted from the social context he is an inherent part of.
3 The distinction between these two concepts is elaborated in Michael P. Carroll’s essay “The Trickster as Selfish-Buffoon and Culture Hero.”
4 A salient example is the episode “Trickster and the laxative bulb” (Radin 25-27).
5 For typical characteristics of picaro figures see, for example, Willy Schumann’s essay “Wiederkehr der Schelme.”
6 Mac Linscott Ricketts calls the culture hero/selfish-buffoon type of the trickster the “trickster-fixer” (Carroll, “The Trickster” 111).
7 The conditions allowing the emergence of civilisation include obtaining fire for the human beings (often stealing it), introducing agriculture (Carroll, “The Trickster” 106); securing of “food in general and of the main cultivated plants; the regulation of the seasons and of the weather; the assignment of their proper and non-destructive functions to the forces of nature; the freeing of the world from monsters, ogres and giants; the origin of death” and the like (Radin 166).
8 One of the famous incidents that make the trickster seem rather stupid is the episode when he sees plums reflected in the surface of water. He mistakes them for real plums and, as dives into the water to get them, he knocks himself unconscious against a rock at the bottom (Radin 28).
9 Henry Louis Gates finds this interpretation too simplistic because if we understand the story as the battle between slaves and masters, we ignore the essential presence of the third character – the elephant. But he does acknowledge that the Signifying Monkey tales can be thought of as “chiastic fantasies of reversal of power relationships” (59). Through the elephant, the Monkey humiliates and dethrones the Lion, subverting his position of the King of the Jungle (63).
10 He does not consider Frederick Douglass to be a real trickster. Nevertheless, he identifies some important trickster features in his character.
11 See Ein kurzweilig Lesen von Till Eulenspiegel. Leipzig: P. Reclam, 1957. Eulenspiegel is even capable of serving his faeces to others and, in one extreme case, eating them himself (20, 47).
12 This is also one of the reasons why Pan is suitable as an inspiration for Barrie’s iconic character. In his essay “Pan and Puer Aeternus,” Perrot comments on the complexity of the works of Henry James, Oscar Wilde and Robert Louis Stevenson, arguing that it derived from “the union of opposing attitudes” and that it “fostered a type of narrative that can be appreciated by adults and young readers alike” (165). More importantly, he gives credit for this uniting effect of their works to the god Pan: “This was the ultimate magic of the double-natured god: to bring together what was usually kept apart” (165).
13 There is a beautifully lyrical depiction of Pan’s ushering in the morning in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows.
14 Also, this episode shows that Peter is a culture hero to a certain extent. It is because of him that Neverbirds built their nests the way they do.
15 Accordingly, in the Nietzschean dichotomy of the Dionysian and the Apollonian, Peter Pan – and tricksters in general – come much closer to the Dionysian, which represents chaos, energy, “primordial creativity” and “joy in existence” (Wicks), Dionysus himself being associated with drunkenness, madness and ecstasy (Kreis). The Apollonian, trying to force “logical order and stiff sobriety” (Wicks), is rather what the trickster tries to disrupt. Correspondingly, Neverland, Peter’s home, is also much closer to the chaotic Dionysian than to the orderly Apollonian: Tatar describes it as “a site of disorder rather than aesthetic order” (Tatar, “Introduction” xl). Moreover, the Dionysian also has a similar function as the trickster, dissolving boundaries and oppositions and allowing people to submerge “in a greater whole” (Kreis). This function could have been especially important for the psychological wellbeing of people living in Victorian England, as Perrot points out: “[T]he image of Dionysus shows an unexpected interplay of primeval instincts, which are not governed by reason and have a healing effect on the modern mind entangled in contradictions” (156). In C. G. Jung’s theory, the Nietzschean dichotomy roughly corresponds to the difference between puer aeternus and senex, his opposite: “The puer's shadow is the senex (Latin for ‘old man’), associated with the god Apollo—disciplined, controlled, responsible, rational, ordered. Conversely, the shadow of the senex is the puer, related to Dionysus—unbounded instinct, disorder, intoxication, whimsy” (Sharp).
16 In fact, Peter Pan was just one of many literary characters of children’s literature that were inspired by the god Pan in this period: “[T]he major watershed in nineteenth-century children’s literature occurred with the introduction of a new type of character: the child-hero, inspired by the mythological figure of the Greek god Pan” (Perrot 155).
17 Actually, Peter does not really understand the notion of sexual attraction (Barrie, The Annotated 80, note 1), which is implied by the fact that he does not know what a kiss is (41).
18 Peter’s extreme cockiness is also the reason why Hook hates him so much, as Tatar points out: “When Hook encounters the sleeping Peter Pan, it is, once again, his ‘cockiness’ that drives Hook into a homicidal frenzy” (Barrie, The Annotated 136, note 3).
19 This structure, in which Peter repeats the praising words while putting the admiring “oh” between the two sentences appears once more in the novel: “Am I not a wonder, oh, I am a wonder!” (100). Indeed, his cockiness knows no bounds, which is why it often makes him look ridiculous. The narrator rightly comments on his character by saying that he was “tingling with life and also top-heavy with conceit” (100).
20 Peter’s liminal status is apparent in Arthur Rackham’s painting “Peter put his strange case before old Solomon Caw” (see fig. 1 in the Appendix), in which Peter perches on a branch like a bird.
21 The fact that Neverland is basically created by the minds of children is also the reason why Peter Pan is able to get into children’s dreams: “While [Wendy] slept she had a dream. She dreamt that the Neverland had come too near and that a strange boy had broken through from it. He did not alarm her, for she thought she had seen him before in the faces of women who have no children” (Barrie, Peter 10).
22 Compared to Native American tricksters, however, Peter’s role of a culture hero is much smaller and remains rather in the symbolic realm.
23 Peter is, however, the only one who cannot tell the difference between make-believe and reality: “The difference between him and the other boys at such a time was that they knew it was make-believe, while to him make-believe and true were exactly the same thing” (Barrie, The Annotated 83). For Peter, there simply is no boundary between reality and imagination. He is the only one who is still mentally a child in this respect: “Peter is, after all, the boy who will not grow up, and knowing the difference between fantasy and reality serves as a critical milestone in the process of maturation” (83, note 7). But this also means that Peter is all the more free, not limited by the awareness of reality.
24 Tatar’s note here is especially relevant to Peter as trickster: “Peter’s self-definition suggests both fragility and strength, combining the vulnerability of a newborn with the power to ‘break through.’ He refuses to categorize himself and avoids being defined by others” (Barrie, The Annotated 163, note 14). As trickster, and hence an enemy of borders, Peter refuses to be defined and restricted to only one identity.