Image of Child HerosThe image of a child hero or “trickster” is seen in many cultures.
Thiskind of role can tell a lot about how a culture acts and reacts to things. Theidea of the child hero in stories written and told before the birth of Christprobably reflect the peoples beliefs that the child is the future, and thereforecarries some sort of power or gift. For stories that were written after thebirth of Christ, the child could reflect the idea stated above, or it could alsobe the peoples belief in an infant savior, that a child will make everythingright again.Whether the story comes from before Christ or after, the one uniformaspect about these stories is that they are present in every culture, all aroundthe world. The image of the “trickster” is also very prevalent in the differentcultures.
It is seen in many different fables and moral-based stories.”You cannot go against the Philistine, you are but a youth, and he haslong been a man of war”(Metzger 145). This is what King Saul of Israel said toDavid when he proposed that he fight the Philistine warrior Goliath. The storyof David and Goliath is quite possibly one of the oldest child hero stories.It was part of the Bible, in the Old Testament. In this story a young man namedDavid proposes to the king of Israel that he fight and attempt to kill Goliath,the giant that had been plaguing Israel.
The king agrees, however hesitantly,and David goes on to slay the beast using just a slingshot. While this storyis not one that was made up, it still shows us that the ancient Hebrewsbelieved in the fact that a child, or in this case teen, has the will andmotivation to do the impossible.Staying on the eastern side of the world, we will next see examples ofRussian stories. In the former Soviet Union, a lot of the time stories, booksand other types of art were hard to come by. “In a broader sense, though, recentyears have witnessed genuine cultural enrichment, as Gorbachevs glasnost policypermitted the works of previously forbidden writers, artists, andcinematographers to become accessible”(Grolier Multimedia). After the public wasable to get at the mass of stories that had been kept from them, there was evenmore of an increase of books and other forms of art. The Russian people now hadmuch more of an incentive to write.
“In a certain village, not near, not far,not high, not low, there lived an old couple with one little son named Ivashko”(Wyndham 32). This is the line that begins the story of Ivashko and the Witch.This story takes place in a small village in Russia, and the main character is asmall boy named Ivashko.
Ivashko was a very independent boy who wanted to go ofon his own and go fishing. He begged and pleaded with his parents, and finallythey gave in. His father built him a canoe and off he went. Ivashko was doingwell while he was fishing, but and one point was lured to shore by an evil witch.The witch grabbed him and took him to her house deep in the woods. She showedhim to her daughter and they decided that they would eat him.At this point the witch left to get some of her friends.
Ivashko seizedthis opportunity, and when the witches daughter went to sit down on a shovel inorder to demonstrate to Ivashko how to do it, he through her into the fire. Hethen left and ran up a tree. The witch found him and started gnawing at the tree.Luckily for Ivashko, a flock of geese was flying overhead and one flew down tosweep him up. Just as he left the tree fell over on the witch and all her evilfriends, crushing them. Ivashko lived happily ever after.
This shows that in theRussian culture there is a presence of the child hero, and even shows the imageof the trickster in the way Ivashko tricked the witchs’ daughter into showinghim how to sit on a shovel. Ivashko is a hero in this story not only because hekilled the witch, but because he rid the lake and the woods of the evil thatkept most people from going there. Although this isn’t one of the newly releasedworks in Russia, I think that the children’s stories, sometimes being all thatthe Russian people had to read that wasn’t corrupted by the government, made agreat contribution to the development of the Russian culture and also had agreat impact on many people.The image of the trickster is also very prevalent in different cultures.In the African culture the trickster comes to the forefront in many differentfolk tales and fables. He is usually used to teach a lesson or to show a moral.
In most cases the trickster ends up getting the short end of the stick, but inthe story I’m going to relate to you, Sungura and the Leopard, the trickstercomes out on top.In the African jungle there lived a leopard. One day it started to rain,and fearing that he may lose his spots, the leopard decided to build a house. Ashort distance away, a rabbit (Sungura) had the same idea. Both chose the samespot to build a house. They both then started to go and gather wood. Each wasadding to the same pile, but neither one knew that the other was also going tobuild there.
They just thought that their ancestors had put the extra wood there.Leopard then went to get mud for the roof, and came back to find the housealready framed. He attributed this to his ancestors and went on to finish thehouse. The two slept in the house that night not knowing that they were together.In the morning they found each other and agreed to build a small wall and sharethe house.
After a while, Rabbit started a family. The noise got too annoyingfor Leopard, so he decided that he would kill them. Rabbit overheard and decidedthat it was time to play a trick on Leopard. He started having his kids cry forelephant meat. Leopard overheard this and got scared. He figured ” if he cankill an elephant then he can kill me”.
So he left. He then saw a baboon, andwas called foolish for believing the rabbit. Then he went back. He thenoverheard Rabbit say “I can’t believe that leopard listened to the baboon! Whata fool!” (Knuston 19). Rabbit then had his children cry for Leopard meat, andwhen Leopard heard Rabbit say that he would go out and hunt some, he left forgood. Rabbit now had the house all to himself.This is a tale that came out of the Ashanti tribe, and the point of itwas to say that even if you are small, if you use your brain then you canprevail.
“Ashanti artistic creations include a wealth of myths and tales…
“(Miller 2). Tales such as this one are seen throughout the African tribes, andthe trickster is usually the one who prevails. The Ashanti, as well as theother tribal Africans, believed that it was more important to use ones mind andto be able to think quick than to just rely on brute strength all of the time.Using the image of the trickster also served as an educational tool. Itdisplayed to the young children that they can get out of a conflict withoutfighting.
It also taught them that pride was bad, because Leopard only wantedthe house so that he wouldn’t lose his spots, and Rabbit, the winner, onlywanted the house so he could raise a family.European culture also has its fair share of trickster tales in AesopsFables. In these stories, which were said to have been written by a Greek mannamed Aesop some time in the sixth century BC, there is always a moral for anending. While Aesops Fables is more of a collection of stories from different,unknown authors, Aesop gets the credit for it.The most commonly used “trickster” in the fables is the wolf. He isshown to be very sneaky and mean, but also very smart. In many of the tales heis successful as the trickster, and his main objective is usually to eatsome sort of defenseless animal.
One example of the wolf as a trickster is the story of the “Wolf and theCrane”. In this story, the wolf has a bone stuck in his throat and asks a craneto use its long neck to pull it out. The wolf offers a reward, so the cranereluctantly accepts. After the bone is out the crane asks for her reward, andgets this reply, ” You can go about boasting that you once put your head into aWolf’s mouth and didn’t get it bitten off. What more do you want?” (Santore 3).
this showed the cunningness of the wolf whereas he got the service that heneeded for nothing in return. One fable where the trickster didn’t come out ontop was in the fable entitled ” The donkey in the Lion’s Skin”. In this case thetrickster was a donkey. He found a lion skin, dressed himself in it, and thenwent around scaring friends. When he neighed in happiness at his triumph, thefox heard him, and exposed him for what he was. Here the fable taught the moralthat if one is to be a trickster, then make sure you are very careful about it.Probably the most famous tricksters and child heroes ever to beintroduced to the world were Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.
These two boys, createdby Mark Twain, spent their entire lives tricking people for different reasonsand also becoming heroes by getting themselves into many interesting adventures.In the book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer the two boys end up capturing acriminal and bringing him to justice before the whole town. Another example ofTom Sawyer’s heroics was when he and a girl were trapped in a cave, and when shepassed out from exhaustion he took it upon himself to get her water and keep heralive. In the end they were rescued from the cave and Tom was given accolades asa hero.The American culture is very receptive of the child hero. In recentmovies such as Home Alone, the child is glorified and given the role of the hero.In America, where there is not very much that remains to be innocent, the imageof the child hero is