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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Samuels

How to Use Tricksters & Deception to Tell Better Stories

Tonight I saw Oz :The Great & Powerful and, surprisingly, I really enjoyed myself. The story was quite well structured and certainly carried with it a few key messages.

Humor was appropriate and the visual effects did not take away from the film, but complemented the way it should.

The one thing that caught my attention the most was the Trickster archetype. They have a very vital role to play in storytelling.

Archetypes are universally accepted symbols, patterns, statements or prototypes for which others are copied from. When discussed, they are usually referred to in the manner of psychology, whereby archetypes are defined as models of a person, personality or behavior. They are most often used within myths and storytelling. Carl Jung made the most advances with these archetypes, and actually formed around 14 universal archetypes for which most personalities or stories are based around. One of them being the Trickster (or fox).

What is the Trickster archetype?

The Trickster archetype is often characterized as the one who plays tricks or disobeys normal rules or convention. Examples of the Trickster include characters like Loki from Norse mythology; the Joker from DC Comics’ Batman universe; the Raven in Native American cultures; and Oz, from the Wizard of Oz.

Now, whenever we witness a Trickster in a story, they tend to lean towards the “darker” side or play the role of anti-hero. However, many times, their knack for trickery becomes the very thing that’s needed to help a situation. In the case of Oz, the repulsive qualities of the con-man quickly became the redeeming qualities of an unexpected hero. So what does this say?

Good vs. Bad

This means that our definitions of good and bad are dependent on our perspectives and understanding of one’s story. If you were to simply look at the middle of Oz’s story – where he’s only interested in fame, riches and a perceived idea of “greatness” – you will be easily misled to skewed judgement. But every story has a beginning and end as well. Roll back to the childhood years of Oz, and you get a clearer picture as to how and why he does what he does. Fast-forward into the future and you see an even different picture. This is the illusion of the story itself.

Morpheus. The Matrix.

Illusions are very powerful. Some get disheartened or disappointed when they learn “the truth” about illusions. However, know that all is not in vain. Some great spiritual leaders, and even thought-leaders, have stated that “life is the biggest illusion.” I think that was also a premise for The Matrix. If we take that into account, then all our “petty” dramas and life undertakings could be a waste of time and effort. Or not.

The Need for Illusion

You see, from my perspective, sometimes we have to experience that which we are not, to experience that which we are. Sometimes an illusion is setup so that we can experience something that is not necessarily available in the “real world.” But belief in the illusion can sometimes evert fear or catastrophes. It can give us hope, amazement, wonder and even curiosity. Curiosity to explore, imagine and create. Think about it – even film is an illusion. You are watching moving images at 24-30 frames per second to make it appear as if something real is happening before your eyes. And if you appreciate your cinema, you can feel the magic of it all. It gets even more surreal when animation is involved.

All in all, the Trickster has a vital role to play in our society and in storytelling. All though we may not like their character for all the mischief or disobedience they embody, they are sometimes exactly what we need to put things straight. Every person has their strengths. And if there’s anything else I learned from Oz it was this, “You can do anything you put your mind to.” Even if you have to trick yourself before it manifests – and that is the ultimate trick of all.


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