What is the main "message" in "The Winnebago Trickster Cycle"?

The main message in “The Winnebago Trickster Cycle” is that one must live in accordance with nature. Throughout the various stories that make up the collection, nature is shown as something that can both save and destroy. It all depends on the attitude we display towards it.

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Although much of the action in “The Winnebago Trickster Cycle” is comical and humorous, there's a serious side to it as well. Like all fables, the stories making up the collection have a moral at their heart which the reader is intended to take on board. Arguably the most important of these morals is that one should always strive to live in accordance with nature, a key element of numerous tribal value systems.

A prime example of this comes in a scene that is both comical and serious. Here, the trickster eats a bulb, even though the bulb warns him beforehand that if he tries to eat it, he will defecate. The trickster is so arrogant that he thinks he can somehow control nature and avoid the unpleasant fate that the bulb has warned him about. Even as the laxative effect of the bulb starts to take effect—just as the bulb warned—the trickster foolishly insists on affirming his status as a “great man”.

The trickster's affirmations of greatness betray a certain arrogance with regard to nature. Instead of living in accordance with nature and respecting it like he's supposed to do, the trickster is treating the natural world as an object to be exploited for his benefit. Humankind, in the form of the trickster, is presented here as morally inferior to nature. And nature's moral superiority is amply demonstrated when the trees intervene to save the trickster from his self-inflicted plight after he's fallen into the large mound of dung his foolish eating of the bulb has just produced.

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"The Winnebago Trickster Cycle" is a collection of stories based on Native American myths that feature Trickster, a spirit and cultural representation of mankind that takes on many different forms—including animals, humans, plants, and objects— throughout his aimless adventures.

The underlying messages of the many Trickster stories are meant to explain the reasons for natural phenomena and the interactions and behavior of humans with nature. Trickster often displays traits such as hubris, ill-will, deceit, lust, jealousy, kindness, and other human emotions. Through his odd and often disastrous misadventures, Trickster imparts on the reader lessons learned about the ways of human ignorance. Above all, Trickster is constantly trying to outwit and trick nature, but through his own flaws and a karma-like form of reciprocity, Trickster and nature always end up even.

The ultimate message of the Trickster myths is that humans are not above nature, but are a part of it and should learn to coexist with the different forces of the world.

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Tricksters played an important role in nature myths from many cultures; in North America, and also in Polynesia, Africa, and other lands. Consistently, they assumed the role of both creator and destroyer. Thus, they explained not only the creation of the world and the natural phenomena in the earth, sea, and sky, but also the reason for natural disasters. In myths and legends, tricksters manipulate the natural forces; they steal the sun during the winter, they trap the moon in a box, and they scatter the stars randomly in the sky. Typically, tricksters existed before the world was formed, and they played a large role in creating it. They are clever and mischievous, and thus, they just as often as the perform creative deeds to help the world progress, they introduce chaos and upset the order of nature.

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The Trickster is always getting into fantastic scrapes, usually because of his over-inflated opinion of himself, or of his physical prowess. He is a kind of creation God, but often creation is the one playing tricks on him, as in the story of the chipmunk that tricks him into losing most of his penis. In this way, he comes across as a kind of comic figure, someone who is able to talk to animals and trees, but often is victimized by them in outrageous ways (as in the story of his epic defecation). I think the main idea or common theme behind these stories has to do with the relationship of man to nature; the Trickster is never one to subdue or exploit nature; nature is not a “thing” but a community which (at best) tolerates the Trickster and his immature flights of fancy.

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In my opinion, the main message of "The Winnebago Trickster Cycle" is that humans should be wary of considering themselves above the natural world.  These are all simple stories to teach valuable lessons.  It has value for young and old, alike. 

Of course, Trickster is the "cultural hero" of all of the stories who always lives up to his name.  The myths chronicle his adventures while spirits enter the world to save humanity from their enemies.  Humans are not indestructible, and nature has a way of always reminding people of this:  natural disasters, herbal poisons, biting insects, you name it.  Trickster often doesn't heed the messages of nature and learns from it (such as in the case of eating the bulb that promises defecation).  In another situation Trickster thinks that people aren't paying attention to him, so he engages them in competition.  Ironically, the "people" aren't really people at all, but are plants and other forms of vegetation.  Trickster, therefore, acquires more wisdom through trial and error.

The world is going to be a difficult place to live in and I am trying to find some clean place in which to dwell.

Thus remains the perfect mini-explanation of Trickster's journeys.

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