Archetype of Trickster – Clown and the Fool

In several cultures the fool appears under the guise of idiot, trickster, harlequin, clown or jester. In the Japanese story Monkey this character is portrayed as Pig; in Britain it is Reynard the Fox, and in the USA Brer Rabbit and Coyote. Charlie Chaplin is a world image in modern times of this crazy, unpredictable yet wise clown.

I see these characters as being incarnations of the irrational, the sleep or death side of ourselves. They usually are clever enough to show themselves in a funny way, or as having something about them that we can see makes them silly or idiots. This is the way they disarm us as they point out – in a comic way – all the things we dare not see about ourselves – the ordinary things we take for granted and yet if we see them as the clown or comedian sees them are quite ridiculous. Some of the things we hold as precious to us are our crazy relationship with falling in love, our pretensions about being in control or important, our ideas about our ego or personality which we protect with extreme vigour, the feelings we have about family, our drug taking – smoking, alcohol, pot etc, being a man or woman and the image we have of being them – the sexual and magnificent woman – the old hag – the sterile man – the stallion and so on, the guru figure in fact all the poses we use.

Because they are often so much a part of the irrational they sometimes are lost in it and commit suicide. This because they are not used to or have the skill to handle the material they are using. The irrational has a dark side because the first layer is all the pain and distortions we usually keep the lid on, but it also has a wonder at it centre when the distortions are dealt with. But the great clowns or comedians are masters of it and like Chaplin manage to survive and even prosper.

Jung puts all these figures under the name of Trickster, who he says represents the earliest and least developed period of life – or the least developed side of our personality. According to Jung, Pig, like Trickster is a figure whose physical appetites and senses dominate his actions and decisions. His thinking does not rise above his belly or his genitals. Not understanding finer feelings, his responses to other people appear crude, self-centred, cynical and unfeeling. In some of the stories however, the difficulties of his exploits gradually bring about a transformation and he becomes a man instead of an animal.

Trickster delights in all sorts of pranks mischief and jokes. James Lewis, in his book The Dream Encyclopaedia, says that Trickster is not by nature evil, even though the results of his activities are often unpleasant. These activities centre around bringing attention to our own or other people’s often hidden stupidity, shams or lies. He is also the unexpected spontaneous ‘idiot’ aspect of life which for no reason at all emerges into our carefully arranged life to upset it. Trickster is a shape shifter and so has the possibility of transformation.

The undeveloped, idiot side of this symbol may have a type of clear-sightedness due to lacking the complications and contradictions of thinking and intellectual values. It also may be creative in a serendipitous sort of way. Because it doesn’t seriously hold onto a purpose or idea, this side of our nature may lead us to something new, a change of direction. In some dreams the fool is a figure who is sacrificed.

The fool or clown is also about the ability to either laugh at the ridiculousness of life, or to cut through the social shams and reveal our hypocrisy in an acceptable way. This makes the fool or clown wise, because they can see through who we are and what people do. Their talent is to reveal such things to us.

But the clown has another aspect which is as a man – usually the clown is male – of sorrows. He leads us to tears as often as he leads us to laughter. This is because the clown shows us the wonderful and tragic human feelings underlying the masks we might wear in daily life. Love, life, loss, success and failure, all have their deeply human side and the clown reveals such things to us.

Carline Myss points out that another aspect of the clown is the simple minded character who is wise in their innocence. Such a character is involved within us in many of our life activities, and brings a gentle kindness to what is lived or felt.

The negative side of the clown archetype is that knowing human drives and urges, the vulnerable underbelly of human life so well, the clown can manipulate, reveal what is hurtful or torture.


Useful Questions and Hints:

Does the part of me that pokes at other people’s weaknesses or vulnerabilities do so caringly or hurtfully?

What is my trickster/clown revealing to me about myself?

Is there still a crude undeveloped side of my nature that I am not very aware of?

Try using Talking As.


-samantha 2014-11-28 14:01:59

I dreamt about a woman suddenly appearing at the countertop on a barstool in an open living room and kitchen. She was nice and had a nice face but she transformed into a jester, just her head I think. It was made of material that was sewn up the middle very well made. Turquoise on one side and white the other, with the floppy horn things either side of head and Of the front of her forehead. I’m not sure if there were bells. She wasn’t freaky and I wasn’t afraid, just a Bit confused at the transformation. Then I woke. I’d been talking with a friend over dinner that night about spiritual experiences and manifestations

-Laufey 2013-01-26 15:40:18

Reynardt the Fox is Belgian. I’m also Belgian. And disturbed.

-ina van den Burg 2011-05-17 18:58:20

I was dreaming about this clown, I was fihting with him, He was stonger then I was,…He wanted
thats how I came on your side,…
just need to hear, learn, need wisdom
What does this clown want, he wanted things from me, needs,…never gott love , brestfeading,… etc etc etc,..shit wat will I do with this!!!
what does it has to do wicht me!

    -Tony Crisp 2011-05-27 9:01:22

    Ina – Why fight him? Every figure, scene or animal in our dreams is created by us out of our fears, out of our inner wisdom, out of what we have learned through experience. So in fighting the clown you were struggling with yourself.

    If you give up fighting the pain, the parts of you that are clamouring for attention, the clown showing you how to laugh and to cry, he could lead you to something wonderful. Honestly there is nothing to fear – unless you are frightened of yourself.


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