The Transformations of Tricksters and the Role of Women in The Origin of Stories and Raven and Marriage

In “The Origin of Stories,” Gaqka’s transformation is brought about by his bride. She tells him “I shall remove your clothes and take all the scars from your face and body.” She has him go through a hollow log, which completes his transformation into a handsome man with fine clothing. It’s implied that some kind of magic is involved, which symbolizes that his marriage completes his journey from boy to man. He leaves his people as an outcast but comes back to them as someone respectable.

The role of women in “The Origin of Stories” is to reaffirm Gaqka’s manhood. Gaqka is an outsider who learns to support himself without the help of his village. But he only returns when his bride insists. By transforming him into a handsome man, she’s literally responsible for his ability to return without ridicule. This metaphorically shows that he can return because he’s married. No one in his family would care for him when his parents died, but with the approval of his wife’s family, Gaqka gains status. The mother of his bride approved of him, and requested that he marry her daughter. Since Native American cultures were matrilineal, it would make sense that men receive status from women. “The Origin of Stories” demonstrates this principle.

Social status is also gained through marriage in “Raven and Marriage.” After losing his first wife, Raven emphasizes that he must “marry a woman of as high caste as [his] first wife.” He tries to intimidate the chief by saying his daughter would have “had a great name in the world.” This is untrue, since Raven has little status of his own. He seeks high status women in an attempt to change this. It’s also important that Raven loses his first wife because he hits her. His father-in-law refuses to let Raven have her back, since he broke his promise that he would “have respect for her and take care of her.”

Both “Raven and Marriage” and “Origin of the Sun Shower” feature tricksters that try to fool women into marriage. In “Origin of the Sun Shower,” the trickster is a snake that transforms himself into a human temporarily. When his true form is revealed, the village protects the girl by shooting him. Like “Raven and Marriage,” this story shows that women were highly respected in Native American society. Men were expected to treat their wives well, and both stories show the consequences for not doing so. The girl mentions that her husband “was only man-like.” He took the appearance of a man, but as a snake, he was actually a threat to his wife. Metaphorically, this implies that it was important to treat women well to be considered a man in matrilineal societies.

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