Professor Hyde discussed his book Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth and Art, which examines the “Trickster” myth in several world cultures and mythologies and how they have furthered society and culture through their action.
"A trickster is almost always an apparently low character who outwits the high and the mighty; but in the process, he frequently overreaches himself and outwits himself, and gets caught in his own traps. In the Old World, the trickster is usually a human figure, maybe even a god or a giant. But in the New World and Africa, the trickster is usually associated with an animal that can assume human form.
The trickster is always on the move and is associated with doorways, crossroads, and boundary markers. He is frequently a messenger between heaven, earth, and the underworld. He is motivated by his appetites for food and sex, which he attempts to satisfy through deceit rather than hard work. His tricks often succeed, but the trickster is also frequently a buffoon, overreaching and getting caught in his own schemes. Further, he is a culture hero, assisting in creation or organizing the elements of creation into forms—either positive or negative—that define how humans live.
All these qualities are illustrated by the trickster cycle of the Winnebago people, which begins with the trickster violating taboos involved with going on the warpath. In a series of adventures, he causes harm to himself (eating part of his own intestines, consuming a laxative plant, and so on) and fails to duplicate the hunting techniques of other animals but gets his family fed anyway. At the end of the cycle, he gives over his mischief and clears the Mississippi of obstacles, then apparently goes to heaven. Paul Radin, who collected this cycle, sees it as a fable about the first half of life, in which an infantile being gradually becomes a socially responsible one. Other scholars disagree with Radin. Some have pointed out that whatever he does, the trickster is an endearing character:
Parents tell their children trickster stories without moralizing them. The trickster might also represent infantile aspects of the self that are repressed but never overcome. Others have suggested that the trickster represents a delicate balancing act between creativity and destructiveness, making him both a revolutionary and a cultural savior. Still others—notably the French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss—have argued that the trickster is a mediator between mutually incompatible positions: He can indulge his appetites without damaging the social fabric, allowing us to have our cake and eat it, too. It has also been suggested that he breaks down and intermingles all categories, creating new combinations, like a court jester or clown.
It has further been argued that in every culture, the trickster represents a liminal state—between here and there, right and wrong, culturally approved and disapproved. The trickster can break or invert social rules, mistreat guests, have sexual relations with taboo relatives, and defy sacred authority in order to move all those boundaries for his entire culture. Beyond all that, the trickster always teaches that no social order is absolute and objective. The anomalous is always excluded in classifying systems, and the trickster works in spaces between categories: male and female, good and evil, approved and disapproved, re-creating culture in the process."
~ Grant L. Voth in Myth in Human History (TTC)