10 July 2018
Rhetoric: The Trickster of the Literary World
Rhetoric is a crucial literary concept, and yet has often gotten a bad rap. Quite frequently used in politics as a term that discredits itself, rhetoric are the ways authors convince you of their worthiness, authenticity, persuasiveness and the ability to keep the reader’s attention. Rhetoric comes in all shapes and sizes, much like the Tricksters in the article, “Shaking up the World: Trickster Tales” (Windling). Windling uses a wide variety of rhetorical moves that urge readers to listen to both the tales of the Tricksters themselves, and why they are such an important part of almost every culture. Windling’s use of figurative writing, narration, and personification make the essay easy and entertaining to read, while her use of historical and cultural context lends credibility to her, as well as enhance the understanding of the material presented.
Windling does not shy away from storytelling throughout her article. She opens her article with the story of the coyote, a disastrous but entertaining character who craves acknowledgment as a strong and important figure. Of course, as with most Trickster tales, the coyote’s plan is thwarted, but when the Creator gives him the task of helping the new humans, he is delighted. The legend ends on an entertaining note, one that no doubt seals his fate as one of a Trickster. Once the coyote’s work begins, so does the trouble of the very people he was meant to help. Windling’s use of this legend provides an entertaining and informative entrance into her article. By giving the audience an example of a Trickster tale, it provides context for the article’s content. It also serves to draw in the audience by entertaining and arousing the curiosity of the readers.
Windling paints a picture of her own experiences, once removed from the stories, and then in the environment that birthed these legends. She compares the way she experienced the legends with the way they were meant to be heard and told. She states:
“It is one thing to read Coyote tales as I first did years ago in New York City, far from the creature’s natural haunts; quite another thing to read them here, where coyotes roam the yard at night, making an eerie noise that sounds remarkably like laughter.”
This paints a stark image in the minds of the readers. In this quote, she personifies the coyote, relating it to the Trickster of the legends. Her tone often pays reverence to the legends themselves through use of metaphors, and the application to the idea of the coyote as a Trickster in modern day. She uses narration to paint a picture of the lands the legends were erected from. Her purpose is to explain to the readers how we as a society often give less credit to these tales. She uses common example of legends readers may have heard in day to day life, and how we take for granted the sacred messages that were once portrayed so vividly orally. While in day to day life, she claims, we view these stories as silly, lighthearted tales. Windling encourages readers to look at the tales through the eyes of the people who wrote them and passed them down generationally.
This is also achieved by her conversations with those who are part of the legend’s culture. She uses quotes to demonstrate how crucial it is to look at these stories more critically. A Navaho friend, or Diné, says that the stories are funny, “but they are also sacred and serious. Trickster reminds us not to be too simplistically dualistic in our thinking; that good can come out of bad and vice versa; and that right and wrong are not always poles apart” (qtd. in Windling). This is a strong, credible source that backs her thesis very well. He also states that it’s sometimes difficult to tell the stories to people from other countries because they don’t take them seriously or understand them the way that they should be. The use of the term Diné shows respect for the Navajo people as she urges others to do.
While the stories Windling tells are often humorous and lighthearted, her tone varies throughout the article. When talking about the legends and the Tricksters themselves, she is often lighthearted as well. Her tone changes slightly when she gets into the more serious issues presented in her article. In many ways, this article is to entertain the audience with the faux pas of the Tricksters, but she also places a strong emphasis on the respect of cultures’ legends. She takes a more serious tone as she points out that the way these stories are printed and share deviate from the original purpose. The Trickster Legends, she insists, are about society and the gray areas included in them.
“Shaking up the World: Trickster Tales” (Windling) takes a serious look at cultural legends that have been trivialized or misunderstood. She uses many examples of Tricksters in different cultures to give the audience an in-depth understanding of the Trickster. Her use of storytelling and narration keep the article entertaining and easy to read. This engages the audience, readers who have knowledge or interest in folklore and legends. Windling also places these stories into the original context of the cultures they came from. Her account of the disconnect between the way she perceived the stories from print in an urban setting to the environment where these legends originated makes it more relatable and doesn’t chastise audience members who may have not understood the context previously. Her use of tone varies throughout the piece. She takes a lighthearted tone when describing the Tricksters and a more serious tone when speaking to the lack of knowledge and reverence urban readers often have towards stories that are sacred to other cultures. Windling’s use of literary techniques and rhetoric keep this article engaging and entertaining, while informing readers of pieces of the legends that they may be missing out on.
Windling, Terri. “Shaking up the World: Trickster Tales.” Myth & Moor, 2006, www.terriwindling.com/folklore/tricksters.html.