THE TRICKSTER
Introduction

What the hell is this?  Well, let me tell you.

In 1912, Sam Blowsnake, a Winnebago Indian (the Hotc‚k), was asked by the cultural anthropologist Paul Radin to dictate the myth of the their trickster figure (Wakdjunkaga), as told by an elder storyteller.  Blowsnake wrote the story down, as it was told to him, in the Winnebago syllabary script--previously used only for writing letters, since the telling of the myth had always been oral.  The trickster story had been passed down for many years.  In some form or another, the story went back as far as 1000 CE, though over the years the stories borrowed a little from Central Algonquian tribes and white Christians.  Two Indians, John Baptiste and Oliver Lamere, translated the story into English for Paul Radin, who then revised their translation into the work that he published in 1956 as The Trickster (a book that contains the information for all the above).

My version of the Trickster Cycle is based on Paul Radin's work as well as a second translation by Richard L. Dieterle (whose version is available online).  Both writers have also provided valuable information about the Winnebago Indian culture and religion (of which the Trickster is a major figure) that has helped me understand and retell the story.  You should totally read their versions and their information if you haven't already.

This project was started because I wanted to draw funny Trickster pictures.  But I am also liking how the story is being retold.  My version attempts to condense the story to its bare necessities, but also to incorporate "explanations" of Winnebago culture within the context of the story so that footnotes aren't needed.  I can hear you thanking me from here.  No matter how flat one tells the story, it remains funny, but I do want it to remain funny.  My language seems to be a mix of a traditional storyteller voice and my own.

My illustrations are based on my own vision of the Trickster.  There's no reason not to picture him as mostly human-looking, but he seems to have some animal qualities, too, and he's certainly supernatural (a god), so I've gone for a combo meal with his appearance.  I'm also purposefully drawing (and coloring) the Trickster slightly differently for each picture.  My vision of this character changes as I read him, and I'm trying to keep some of that "everything at once" feeling as possible.  However, his essential characteristics don't change.  He's not going to show up as Bugs Bunny or anything (though Bugs is certainly the actor to play him).

I'm drawing these pictures with pencils on a sketch pad, then scanning them in and coloring them with Adobe PhotoDeluxe (a crappy version of Photoshop that I've always used that isn't made anymore).  I'm purposefully leaving in most of the guiding sketch marks.  I've always enjoyed design sheets for characters that haven't been cleaned up and inked, so I'm going for a little of that.  It also seems to make sense for this project about a character and world in process.

But, really, what the hell is this?  Seriously, that's about all I can tell you.  If you have any questions, let me know through email, but all I can say is that I've loved this character and these stories since I discovered him years ago and I'm trilled that something like this exists in the world, especially in the religious world.

Enjoy my dirty pictures,
Rusty W. Spell

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Copyright (c) Jun 2009 by Rusty's Art
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