Tales of Tricky Gods

Gods give us wisdom and virtue, but the tricksters are the ones we remember. Modern authors tend to highlight the more positive aspects of their character as they give them a contemporary spin. Fasten your seat belts and get ready for humorous adventure. 

Where to start in recent literature of trickster gods than Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys? Nebbish Charlie Nancy finds out his reliably unreliable father has died and that he has a brother he has to ask a spider to meet. As the characters bounce between Florida and the United Kingdom, Charlie's brother (named Spider, naturally) manages to get Charlie in all kinds of trouble, including absconding with Charlie's fianceé and murder charges. Things get even worse when Charlie tries to magically dispose of Spider. Fortunately, things do work out in the end, with Charlie on a Caribbean island with a new love interest and no extradition treaty. Fast-paced fun with the deities of western Africa, particularly that tricky Anansi.

Karen Lord also mines the West African mythos for her plot and characters in Redemption in Indigo. Paama, a great cook, has fled her gluttonous husband, who has hired a tracker, if somewhat belatedly. Patience, one of the Djombi, has given Paama the Chaos Stick to help her along. Chance, the Indigo Lord and also a Djombi, used to be in possession of this object and the plot of this novel is basically his efforts to get the Chaos Stick back. While not a very long book, this is quality literary fiction in a humorous vein.

For those of you who remember my post on Cathrynne M. Valente, she draws from Japanese folklore to give us The Grass-cutting Sword. Trickster kami Susanoo-no-Mikoto is banished from heaven and has to make his way on earth. He gets a bride for tracking down and defeating an 8-headed monster, but the wife is unwilling. Fortunately, Susanoo is able to make the Grass-Cutting Sword from the monster's spine, and departs for friendlier environs. Richly layered and with lush language, this novel is highly evocative of medieval Japan.

Anyone who's been near a screen in the past several years knows of the Avengers and their foil Loki, the trickster of Asgard. Joanne M. Harris gives him his own voice in the first two novels of a planned trilogy, and to hear Loki tell it, he's not such a bad guy: deceitful, yes, perverse, yes, possessed of astronomical self-regard, yes, but what did you expect from a creature of Chaos? The Gospel of Loki is his own interpretation of the Nordic myths, from his partnership with Odin to Ragnarock. Most of the other gods are spiteful towards him, Thor is as thick as a brick, and Odin is just as tricky as Loki himself and a little too fond of prophecy. The Testament of Loki veers into new territory: Loki is trying to find his way back out of Chaos and into the Worlds. He gets there through a computer and into the body of an angsty teenage girl. He is preceded by Odin, and followed by Thor, who is quite happy to be a dog of the small and yappy variety. Unfortunately, they are not the only ones to have come through the portal, and not only does Loki have to fix the hash he's made of his host's life, he has to travel through Dream to make sure he and his compatriots can stay this side of Chaos. Through it, Loki may be developing feelings like affection and compassion, but best not to dwell on that. Often poignant and with vivid imagery, this book is still hilarious fun.

Have more tales of tricky gods? Tell us about them in the comments.

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