From the Editor’s Desk 6

From the Editor’s Desk

"I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells."

— Dr. Seuss

Winter 2007
Dear Reader,

Welcome to our Winter 2007 Issue of the Journal of Mythic Arts dedicated to Tricksters dark and bright.

As a mythic archetype, Trickster is notable for his dual, contradictory nature: he’s foolish yet canny, innocent yet wise; he is both a hero and a world destroyer. Although sometimes he shows just one of these faces, the opposite face always lurks beneath — or else he flips back and forth between the two,delighting in his contrariness. His tales are often slapstick and ribald, yet his role is not merely a comical one. He is also a deeply sacred figures in religious systems the world over.

Nasreddin Hodja was a real–life Trickster: a Turkish cleric of the 13th century, famed for his wit and the "contrary wisdom" of his Sufi teaching parables. He passed into Muslim folklore as the "Wise Fool" hero of thousands of comical stories that have spread throughout Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East. In China and Tibet,Zen Buddhism has an ancient tradition of "Crazy Wisdom" tales recounted by contrary monks who seek enlightenment through laughter. Hinduism, too, has a long tradition of divine craziness, practiced by mad ascetics who lead contrary lives as acts of religious devotion. Trickster appears in the Christian world in Carnaval and Feast of Fools celebrations, in which all the usual social rules are suspended or turned up–side–down.Among the Lakota Sioux, Heyokas are holy men appointed by Great Spirit to lead their lives doing everything backwards, reinforcing the norms of society by reflecting their opposite. The Hopi, the Zuni, and other Pueblo tribes have respected traditions of "sacred clowns" who disrupt and mock solemn ceremonies and who chastise tribal wrong–doers by mimicking transgressive behavior.These clowns have license to be rude, crude, lewd, and utterly outrageous; they play important roles as teachers and healers, using laughter as their medicine. "The heart of the Hopi concern of clowning is that we are all clowns," says Hopi writer Emory Sekaquaptewa (in his article "One More Smile for a Hopi Clown") — for we’re all contrarycreatures like the clowns, we all behave both foolishly and wisely as we make our way through life. Tricksters and clowns are funny precisely because we recognize ourselves in them — with all our worst traits exaggerated, and redeemed by the magic of laughter.

Tricksters, fools, and clowns cause culturally–sanctioned mayhem in many other traditions around the world. In the stylized drama of Japanese Noh theater, outrageous creatures called the Kyogen (the "wild words") disrupt the mannered elegance of Noh’s famously long performances, providing the audience with reviving bursts of comic relief. Likewise, a dwarf named Vidusaka brings an element of broad slapstick to long performances of The Mahabharata,the great Hindu epic of India. In England, traditional Mummers Plays combine Christian death–and–resurrection themes with elements of indigenous paganism, all mixed up into wild tales punctuated by bursts of laughter. The Trickster here is the Hobby–Horse, who causes havoc in the streets and makes lewd propositions to pretty girls. He’s often killed — only to rise again, irrepressible as ever (much like that modern Trickster, Wile E. Coyote, in Road Runner cartoons).

As for me, I first encountered Trickster in the pages of mythology texts when I was a university student. I loved his tales, yet I have to admit that I didn’t quite get him back then. Sometimes he was good, sometimes he was bad, and I couldn’t quite get a handle on him, until I finally understood that ambivalence and paradox were his meat and drink. He popped up again, with his cock–sure grin, in the pages of mythic novels I worked on as a fiction editor in New York City — bookslike Charles de Lint’s Someplace to Be Flying, Zora Greenhalgh’s mixed-up Contrarywise, Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks, Midori Snyder’s award–winning The Innamorati, and (more recently) Ellen Steiber’s deeply mythic novel A Rumor of Gems. When I moved to the Arizona desert, Trickster came prowling around my house at night, leaving coyote paw prints in the dust and the eerie echo of his midnight song. I heard and read his tales recounted byNavajo, Hopi, and Tohono O’dham storytellers; and followed his trail through Lewis Hyde’s brilliant study, Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art. When I sat down to write my desert novel, The Wood Wife, Trickster sauntered into it bold as you please, copper bands circling his wrists and spiral tattoos etched on his flesh. England’s West Country, where I’m living now, is no safe haven from Trickster’s pranks. He pops up here as Reynard the Fox, as boastful Robin Goodfellow,and as pesky piskies fond of leading Dartmoor travelers astray. Over the years, I’ve learned to sit up and pay attention when Trickster makes his appearance. The energy he brings along with him is chaotic, unnerving, exasperating. . .but always valuable in the end. It brings necessary change.

Michael Chabon fell under Trickster’s spell back when he wrote the introductory essay for McSweeney’s Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories, discussing one area of the arts sorely in need of Trickster’s penchant for shaking things up: American mainstream fiction, particularly in the short story form. He cites Lewis Hyde’s work on Trickster, notes Trickster’s role as the lord of the borderlands,and then makes a case for fiction that rests, Trickster fashion, in the borders between genres. "Trickster," he writes, "haunts the boundary lines, the margins, the secret shelves between sections in the bookstore. And that is where, if it wants to renew itself the way that the novel has done so often in its long history, the short story must, inevitably, go."

I couldn’t agree more.

In this Issue

In the Reading Room, we start off with my introductory article exploring Trickster lore from all around the world, after which Heinz Insu Fenkl takes a closer look at two Tricksters in particular: Tyll Eulenspiegel from Germany and Kim Seon–dal from Korea. In the Writing Room, Ann Skea discusses Crow, another classic Trickster character — looking at the ways myth and folklore inform the Crow poems of British poet Ted Hughes. In the Crossroads, Midori Snyder looks at the Tricksterish antics of Marx Brothers films, tracing them all the way back to the slapstick Satyr plays of ancient Greece . . .witha look at early Italian farce and Commedia dell’Arte along the way.

The fiction in this issue concerns two Tricksters from opposite sides of the world: Coyote, from Native American tales, and Uncle Tompa, from Tibetan folklore. "Coyote Goes to College" is a brand new story contributed by Gregory Frost, who is the author of Fitcher’s Brides and other magical books. Greg has visited Trickster before (in stories like "How Meersh the Bedeviler Lost His Toes"), but this is the first time he’s looked Coyote eye–to–eye. . . .and lived to tell thetale. "Two Tales of Uncle Tompa, the Legendary Rascal of Tibet" comes from the acclaimed Tibetan author and storyteller Rinjing Dorje. As a child, Dorje worked in the Himalayan Mountains as a yak herder, and it was there, sitting around fires with other herders and nomads, that he first heard Uncle Tompa stories.

Trickster pops up in several guises in our poetry offerings this month: there’s Coyote and Raven out of Native American myth, Manatee from Cuban folklore, Monkey from Zen Buddhist tales, and two wily creatures from children’s cartoons. We also have a humorous take on the fairy tale Three Billy–goats Gruff.

In the Gallery, we feature three artists, from three continents, whose work shares something of Trickster’s exuberance, originality, and wit. Inner Seasons builds upon a previous exhibition by English artist Virginia Lee, presenting new work alongside favorite pieces from the older show. Oliver Hunter, an Australian artist whose work has also appeared in our gallery before, is back with Traveling the Wilds, an exhibition of new drawings taken from his sketchbooks. Chandra Cerchione–Peltier brings us into her studio to give us a peek at recent work: dolls and puppets inspired by characters from myth and folklore.

Information on all of the writers and artists who kindly contributed to this issue can be found at the bottom of this page.

Endicott Studio News

Endicott’s new Mythic Arts Blog has been up and running for six months now, replacing our old Bulletin Board as the place we post news, reviews, and other kinds of mythic arts information. We’re helped in this endeavor by book reviewers Helen Pilinovsky, Elizabeth Genco, Kathleen Chen, and Jamie Bluth, the latter of whom is also the copy–editor for both the blog and the Journal of Mythic Arts.

The new name on that list is Kathleen Chen, who joined the Endicott review staff this past autumn. Kathleen is a doctoral candidate in English Literature at the University of Minnesota, currently working on gender and images of the body in texts by medieval and early modern mystical women. Fantasy literature is a secondary specialty of hers, and she has taught, with Jennifer Miller, a very popular course in children’s fantasy literature.

The Mythic Arts Blog is intended to be a source of both information and inspiration for creators, scholars, and fans of mythic fiction, art, drama, music, and mythic arts scholarship. But we can only do this with your help. If you have news that others might want to know about (new publications, performance events, art exhibitions both live and on–line, awards and market information, links to articles on the web, etc.), or if you know a good website featuring mythic art (your own or someone else’s),or if you’d like to nominate a poem for the Sunday Poem feature, here’s the place to write: endicottblog-nominations[at]yahoo.co.uk. We’re grateful for all recommendations from the Endicott community.

If the stories and pictures that appear in this issue of the Journal of Mythic Arts whet your appetite for more Trickster tales, please keep an eye out for the new YA anthology The Coyote Road, which I co–edited with Ellen Datlow and which will appear from Viking Press this June.

Thank you, once again, for dropping by the Endicott Studio, and for supporting the Journal of Mythic Arts. Midori and I wish you the best of luck with all your own creative endeavors. As writer extraordinaire Jane Yolen says, "Touch magic, and pass it on."

Cheers,

Terri Windling

Contributors, Winter 2007

Writers

Nathalie F. Anderson
Rinjing Dorje
Carolyn Dunn
Margarita Engle
Heinz Insu Fenkl
Larry Fontenot
Gregory Frost
Kij Johnson
Mario Milosevic
Munro Sickafoose
Ann Skea
Midori Snyder
Joseph Stanton
Terri Windling

Artists

Chandra Cerchione-Peltier
Stephen Dooley
Oliver Hunter
Alan Lee
Virginia Lee
Iain McCaig
Mark Wagner