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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The Function of Charter-Myths and Trickster-Tales in Ethiopia
Author:Molvaer, Reidulf K.ISNI
Periodical:Aethiopica: International Journal of Ethiopian Studies
Geographic term:Ethiopia
Subjects:trickster tales
Law, Human Rights and Violence
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Politics and Government
External link:https://doi.org/10.15460/aethiopica.7.1.284
Abstract:The Ethiopian trickster is not only a figure of fun at whom everyone laughs: on the contrary, he is often admired for getting away with the dishonest tricks he plays on credulous people. In Ethiopian tales, the trickster always gets away unpunished. He is, however, not so destructive that he creates total chaos, as is the case with tricksters in some other cultures; he gets only advantages for himself at the expense of others, and he does this by being more 'clever' than they are. The present author bases himself mainly on tales he collected in Ethiopia. He finds it helpful to discuss trickster tales together with charter myths, which are the biggest trickster tales of all. Ordinary trickster tales are just popular versions of the greater trickster tales, namely the myths that function as charters giving rights of supreme power to a certain group, which has itself created or taken over these charter myths. The charter myths legitimize unlimited 'tricks' (hoaxes presented as rights) and often indeed crimes against the ruler's own people ('subjects'). The author propounds his view in a set of statements, 'proving' them by reference to illustrative tales. He concludes that, without checks on behaviour 'from above', lawlessness would flourish; but trickster tales may hint that obedience to the law is not absolute, and that rebellion is a possibility if power is misused. Trickster tales remind rulers to be moderate in their use of power. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [ASC Leiden abstract]