Trickster Tales: American Indian Heritage

Tricksters such as Coyote, Rabbit, Nanabosho, and Iktomi are among the favorite characters of American Indian lore. Our booklist includes a variety of trickster tales, from a story about the birth of Nanabosho to playful, modern adaptations in which Coyote travels to New York City — and the mall!

A Coyote Columbus Story

Illustrated by: William Kent Monkman
Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: Coyote rules her world, until a funny-looking stranger named Columbus (looking for humans to sell in Spain) changes her plans. Thomas King uses a bag of literary tricks to shatter the stereotypes surrounding Columbus's voyages, inviting children to laugh at the crazy antics of Coyote, who unwittingly allows Columbus to engineer the downfall of his human friends.

Beaver Steals Fire: A Salish Coyote Story

A long time ago, fire belonged only to the animals in the land above, not to those on the earth below. Curlew, keeper of the sky world, guarded fire and kept it from the earth. Coyote, however, devised a clever plan to steal fire, aided by Grizzly Bear, Wren, Snake, Frog, Eagle, and Beaver. Beaver Steals Fire is an ancient and powerful tale springing from the hearts and experiences of the Salish people of Montana.

Chukfi Rabbit's Big, Bad Bellyache: A Trickster Tale

Illustrated by: Leslie Stall Widener
Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: Deep in Choctaw Country, Chukfi Rabbit is always figuring out some way to avoid work at all costs. When Bear, Turtle, Fox, and Beaver agree on an everybody-work-together day to build Ms. Possum a new house, Chukfi Rabbit says he's too busy to help. Until he hears there will be a feast to eat after the work is done: cornbread biscuits, grape dumplings, tanchi labona (a delicious Choctaw corn stew), and best of all, fresh, homemade butter! So while everyone else helps build the house, Chukfi helps himself to all that yummy butter!

Coyote and the Sky: How the Sun, Moon, and Stars Began

Illustrated by: Victoria Pringle
Age Level: 3-6

According to Santa Ana Pueblo legend, the animals' spirit Leader created the sun, moon, and stars by using woven yucca mats and hot coals. He selected certain animals to climb from their homes in the Third World up to the Fourth World, but Coyote was forbidden to accompany them because he was always causing trouble and stealing food from the others. Regardless of what he was told, Coyote refused to stay in the Third World. Coyote's punishment is a lesson in what happens to animals, or people, when they refuse to obey instructions.

Coyote Christmas: A Lakota Story

Age Level: 6-9

Harry N. Abrams: Sneaky Coyote is known in the Native American tradition as the Trickster. He knows that there's one character people can't refuse on Christmas Eve: Santa Claus! Using straw for a jolly belly and wool for his Santa's beard, the Trickster fools a family into welcoming him to their Christmas meal. But just when he thinks he's gotten away with his ruse, taking their food and leaving the family with nothing, he's foiled by a strange occurrence. Could it be a Christmas miracle?

Coyote in Love With a Star: Tales of the People

Illustrated by: Tom Coffin
Age Level: 6-9

In this tale, Coyote leaves his home on a Potawatomi reservation on the Plains to find work in New York City. Once there, he falls in love with a star and leaves the Earth to dance with her. When he asks to return, she drops him. He lands in Central Park, making a big hole (the Reservoir), and his descendants howl at the night sky to scold her. — School Library Journal (Note: This story, featuring the World Trade Center, was written in 1998.)

Coyote Stories of the Montana Salish Indians

Here are traditional Salish Indian coyote stories, recorded by Salish elders and illustrated by Indian artists from the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana. Written at a fourth grade level, these legends are meant to be enjoyed by people of all ages — from three to eighty-three — just as they have been for generations among the Salish, who often gathered together to listen to these stories during the cold, dark Montana winters.

How Rabbit Tricked Otter and Other Cherokee Trickster Stories

Age Level: 6-9

This collection of 15 Cherokee tales introduces the trickster-hero Rabbit, the most important character portrayed in the animal stories of the Cherokee culture. The surefooted messenger who carries important news to his animal friends near and far, Rabbit is charming and mischievous. Sometimes he wins and sometimes he loses, but somehow Rabbit always survives.

Rabbit and the Well

Illustrated by: Murv Jacob
Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: In the forest where Ji-Stu the Rabbit lives, the rain has stopped falling and the river is drying up. Soon the forest creatures will have no water to drink. One day Ji-Stu has an idea: there's plenty of water deep in the ground. What the animals need is a well! All his neighbors agree, and they begin at once to dig a well. Everyone, that is, except Ji-Stu. When Ji-Stu wants to join in the celebration and refill his empty water pots, he quickly learns that he is not welcome at the well. But the trickster rabbit has plans of his own to get all the water he needs.

Raccoon's Last Race

Product Description: Joseph and James Bruchac team up again in the retelling of this Abenkai fable. Azban the Raccoon loves to race on his long legs. He is the fastest of all the animals, but he's also the most conceited, mocking everyone with his speed. When the other animals grow tired of his attitude, Azban chooses Big Rock as his next opponent. Busy taunting instead of running, he trips, and Big Rock flattens him. Only the ants will help stretch him out again — as long as he promises to be their friend. But will a trickster like Azban keep his word?

The Birth of Nanabosho

Illustrated by: Jim Kirby
Age Level: 6-9

When Nonie and Billy go to visit their grandparents, Mishomis tells them a story about how Nanabosho, the son of West Wind and grandson of Nokomis, is born into this world, and how he grows and learns of the world around him. There is much cultural information here, and this is an excellent starting place for understanding the great and beloved hero and trickster. — Oyate

The Chichi Hoohoo Bogeyman

Product Description: While secretly exploring an old fort on the South Dakota prairie, three Indian girls encounter a stranger. One of the girls playfully names him the chichi hoohoo bogeyman, after the Sioux, Hopi, and white figures used to discipline children. On a forbidden outing, the girls again encounter the stranger, who starts to chase them as they run away in fear. Swearing themselves to secrecy, they become further unsettled when they return home and hear the adults talk of recent unexplained occurrences at home, perhaps driven by spirits.

The Trickster and the Troll

Product Description: The friendship and adventures of Iktomi, the trickster figure from Lakota legend, and Troll, the familiar character from Norse mythology, are the subject of this imaginative, marvelously spun tale. While searching for his Norwegian immigrant family, the gentle, lumbering Troll meets Iktomi on the Great Plains. The vain, opportunistic Trickster soon discovers that he too has lost his people. When Iktomi and Troll eventually find their peoples, they are neither recognized nor wanted.

Trickster: Native American Tales (A Graphic Collection)

Age Level: Middle Grade

In Trickster more than twenty Native American tales are cleverly adapted into comic form. Each story is written by a different Native American storyteller who worked closely with a selected illustrator, a combination that gives each tale a unique and powerful voice and look. Ranging from serious and dramatic to funny and sometimes downright fiendish, these tales bring tricksters back into popular culture in a very vivid form. Edited by Matt Dembicki.