Why are things the way they are? Why are there stars? Why do alligators have scaly skin? Why do rabbits have those cute powder puff tails? Why do buzzards have bald heads? Native American mythology often employs the character of the trickster to explain the state of the world and its creatures.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines trickster as: a cunning or deceptive character appearing in various forms in the folklore of many cultures.
A trickster can be a god or spiritual being, or simply another human being or animal. The stories of the Native American tricksters (which are typically in animal form) have been oral tales told through the centuries, passed down from one generation to the next. The tales often incorporate a moral, imparting a lesson for young listeners.
These stories are being retold more and more in book form, and now comic book creator Matt Dembicki has brought together more than 40 storytellers and illustrators for TRICKSTER Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection.
This collection of 21 tales marks the first time such stories have been told in a graphic or cartoon format. Editor Dembicki explains how the book came about:
“As a comic book creator and someone who appreciates nature, I mulled over the appeal of producing Native American trickster stories in a sequential format. A little research revealed that such a book didn’t exist. For this book, I wanted to be authentic, meaning they would have to be written by Native American storytellers… The storytellers each selected an artist from a pool of contributing talents to render their stories. Additionally, the storytellers approved the storyboards. In terms of editing, text was changed only when panel space was an issue and only with the approval of the storyteller. The point wasn’t to westernize the stories for general consumption, but rather to provide an opportunity to experience authentic Native American stories…”
Four storytellers with Oklahoma roots have contributed their stories to the collection: Joyce Bear, Greg Rodgers, Michael Thompson and Tim Tingle; and Oklahoma artist Roy Boney Jr. illustrated one of the tales.
The book is a delight for readers of all ages, but it would be especially perfect for reading to children. I remember my mom reading Aesop’s Fables to me, and I can see young people experiencing that same kind of wonder by hearing and, in this case, seeing, the tales of the Trickster.