Sunday, September 27, 2015

Tricksters and Tolkien

In my research, I was most curious about the nature of the Trickster and how it might have been represented in other characters through history—especially Tolkien’s characters.

Through my research I found out that the fundamental traits of a trickster are that they are morally ambiguous (untethered to either "good" or "evil”), deceptive, fond of tricks, and either quite sly or very naïve.  In addition, they tend to be shape-shifters (like Loki) and shallow.  Their primary goals are self-preservation and general chaos, so they are both cowardly and solitary.  Thus, in order to avoid punishment, they are often both the cause and the resolution of problems.

Once I found all of this information, it was easy to find examples in literature and culture: the Joker, Pan the Satyr, Woland the devil, Rumpelstiltskin, and the “Seven With One Blow” tailor.  These examples demonstrate how wide this category can be; the Joker and Woland are certainly more on the evil side, but the tailor is the protagonist of his story.

Before my research, I had thought that Grima and Saruman were probably the best examples of a Trickster in Tolkien’s works, but after looking at the definition of the Trickster, I realized that Smeagol is a great example of a Trickster. 

Smeagol is solitary, shallow, selfish, and (while malicious) he is not evil or good.  He is not on anyone’s side but his own, as is demonstrated by his betrayal of Frodo as soon as he feels threatened.  As to shape-changing, he has the One Ring to make him invisible, and he is very sly.  In fact, he uses the word “tricksy” more than once, and his antics drive the plot forward in many points.

I find Smeagol to be the most convincing Trickster in Tolkien’s works; what do you think?

1 comment:

Vairë said...

I can see your thinking, however I posit that Golem plays a slightly different role: that of the symbol of the pitiable nature of evil. The trickster is never quite so potently aligned. I would cite Bilbo in the hobbit, but I'm not sure that there is a true trickster by your stated definition in the Lord of the Rings proper. The trickster is suited to certain mythos, and not others, and this mythos is to heavy with shadow, in my opinion, for a true trickster to appear.