All across North America, and in fact around the world, the tradition of the trickster has a long and storied history among the older cultures of the world. Whether the Raven of the West Coast, Coyote of the plains, the bumbling Nanabush or Nanabozo of the woodlands, or whatever shape or form he has been given by his people, his purpose is the same. By epitomizing our worst traits, and putting them into action, he teaches us object lessons on how to live. By his own estimation he's the most intelligent, the bravest, the toughest, and generally all around best at everything, yet he invariably ends up falling flat on his face. Somehow or other he's always just tricky enough to outsmart himself and no one else.
The other thing all tricksters, no matter what their nationality, have in common is their complete lack of humility. No matter what happens, no matter how embarrassing the situation they end up finding themselves in, they never seem to able to learn the lesson that they were the ones responsible for their own downfall. While many of their predicaments are quite funny, there are occasions when our laughter at what happens to them is slightly tinged with sadness or even unease. For, while the stories are told to ensure we never get too full of ourselves, there are only so many times you can watch someone slip on a banana peel and find it funny until you start to either feel sorry for them or begin to wonder what it might be like to slip on one yourself.
Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any room in the modern world for tricksters anymore. Which is a pity, because we're currently a world that thinks way too highly of itself and has a far overblown sense of its own importance. We've all become so wrapped up in going about our business that we've forgotten how to live. Well, Canadian author Drew Hayden Talyor, a member of the Ojibway nation — or, as they refer to themselves, Anishnawbe (The People) — has decided its about time to see what would happen if the ancient trickster of his nation were to show up on a modern day reservation. What would he look like, what would people's reaction to him be, and what kind of mayhem would be the result? The answers to those questions and others can all be found in his first full length novel, Motorcycles & Sweetgrass, being published by Random House Canada on March 9, 2010.