Got’cha: Trickster Tales From Around The World Study Guide

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with Cathy Kaemmerlen

Program Description

We all like to play tricks on each other, even if it isn’t April Fool’s.  Nobody likes to be tricked or made to look foolish.  We all like to play the part of the trickster.  As a matter of fact, every culture in the world has a trickster in their folklore.  Sometimes the trickster is a teacher, who makes us all learn from our foolish mistakes, but sometimes the joke’s on the trickster and he looks like the fool. Sometimes the trickster crosses the line and turns into a mean, spiteful bully.
The tricksters: 1. TYL EULENSPIEGEL (from German, Holland, Austria, and the American Pennsylvania Dutch) whose name means owl mirror, for he often holds up the mirror to mankind, so he can see how foolish he sometimes acts.    2. COYOTE from the American Southwest.  It is said by one and all that coyote’s cleverness is equalled only by his stupidity.    3. ANANSI, THE SPIDER from Africa and the West Indies.  Anansi was sometimes all spider, all man, half spider/half man, but always the trickster.  Sometimes his pride gets in the way of his common sense and the trickster becomes the fool.
Tricksters can hold up the mirror to us and teach us about ourselves.  There’s a little bit of the trickster and the fool in all of us

Artist Bio

Cathy Kaemmerlen, professional actress, dancer, and storyteller, is known for her variety of characters, one-woman shows, and for her rapport with audiences.  A performer and “creator of shows” since she can remember, she has toured in schools coast to coast, since receiving a BA in English/elementary education from UNC-Charlotte, and a MFA in dance performance/choreography/theatre at the University of Wisconsin.  She tours through Tattlingtales Productions, the Georgia and South Carolina Touring Arts Rosters, Fulton County Teaching Museums, and has received numerous grants and honors, including Outstanding New Interpreter for her region with the National Association of Interpreters. She is the author of four non-fiction books.

Background on Art Form

Telling stories is an oral tradition, dating back to when mankind first developed a language or form of communication.  Storytelling is a universal way of passing down information to be saved and remembered for generations to come.  It is an interactive art form in which the storytellers’ passion for the story, material, and information, is passed on to the audience, who sorts through, interprets, stores, and synthesizes what is heard.

Prepare: Teachers, please read this to your students.

Today we are going to have a performance by storyteller Cathy Kaemmerlen who is going to tell us  three trickster tales from three different cultures.  Every culture around the world has at least one trickster.  That might be someone who teaches us lessons by playing tricks on us or someone who crosses the line but has the trick backfire on him.  That kind of trickster becomes a fool who never seems to learn his own lesson and can cross the line and become a bully.  Tricks should be in fun and make us laugh at ourselves, but should not be harmful or mean.  Most tricksters are animals, but one trickster today will be a human being.  We are going to learn about Tyl Eulenspiegel from Holland; coyote from our Western culture; and Spider Anansi from African culture.

Warm Up Questions to set the stage for engaging students:

What do you think a trickster is?
What do you think a bully is?
Can a trickster ever become a bully?
What do you think trickster tales are?
Do you think you can learn lessons from tricksters or trickster tales?
Can you name some tricksters you’ve read about?
Why do you think trickster tales might be funny?

Vocabulary to look at before and after:

numbskull:  one who’s brain is numb, dimwitted
noodlehead:  one who doesn’t use his noodle or brain very effectively, a numbskull with little or no common sense
prank:  a joke or trick played on someone
trickster:  one who plays tricks, pranks, jokes usually to teach someone a lesson
jester:  a fool, someone who plays the role of a fool for amusement’s sake
spoof:  a hoax, a deception
trickery:  the use of tricks or playing tricks
fable:  a story, usually using animals, that teaches a lesson or moral
moral:  the lesson to be learned or the point of the story
pourquoi stories:  how or why stories used to explain natural traits

Warm Up Questions for meeting the Georgia Performance Standards for “Listening/Speaking/Viewing”:

Describe the perfect audience.
What are some of our class rules for being good listeners?
How do we show someone we appreciate their visit to our school or classroom?
How does being part of an audience help make you a good citizen?
What are some examples of bad audience behavior or attitudes?
How does a negative audience member effect your enjoyment of a show or performance?
How would this make the performer feel?
How do we want the performer to feel when they leave our school or classroom?


Discuss what is a trickster and what it means to have good, clean fun. Discuss what is a bully and when a trickster might step over the line and become a bully.
Compile a book of tricks, collected from your family and friends.
Discuss the stories from the show.  Who were the trickster teachers and who were the trickster fools and why?
Find out who other tricksters are from other cultures.
Find a trickster from the culture you and your family members represent.
Write a trickster tale and act it out. Did your tale have a lesson or moral to learn?


ANANSI THE SPIDER by Gerald McDermott
ANANSI AND THE MELONS adapted by Eric A. Kimmel
A STORY A STORY retold by Gail E. Haley
THE ADVENTURES OF SPIDER by Joyce Cooper Arkhurst
IN DAYS GONE BY (Folklore and traditrions of the PA Dutch) byAudrey Burie Kirchner and Margaret R. Tassia
TILL EULENSPIEGEL’S MERRY PRANKS by Heinz Hanisch/Lisbeth Zwerger
TILL EULENSPIEGEL translated by Paul Oppenheimer
TALES OF TRICKERY from the Land of Spoof collected by Alvin Schwartz
MEET TRICKY COYOTE retold by Gretchen Will Mayo
AMERICAN INDIAN MYTHS AND LEGENDS edited by Richard Endoes and Alfonso Ortiz
THE TALE OF RABBIT AND COYOTE adapted by Tony Johnston

For your listening pleasure:  TYL EULENSPIEGEL’S MERRY PRANKS, a programmatical tone poem by Richard Strauss

QCC’s:  K-5 Language Arts: 2; Kindergarten Language Arts: 4, 6, 40: Grade 2 Language Arts: 46; Grades 3 and 4 Language Arts:  45, 50, 51; Grade 5 Language Arts:  51, 57