Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Talking Penis

Today in Native American Literature, I broke the class into groups and assigned each group a Trickster Tale. I told the students to plan a performance of each tale, and the students will be doing their performances tomorrow. I assigned one group the tale: "The Talking Penis."

This tale is found in American Indian Trickster Tales, edited by Simon Ortiz and Richard Erdoes. It originates from the Gros Ventre.

In the tale, Trickster hears a powerful man singing a song which brings buffalo to the people. Trickster wants to learn the song. The powerful man agrees to teach Trickster the song but warns that Trickster should not sing the song very often: "Use it only once during the hunting months." Trickster wants to show off, though, so he sings the song all the time.

"Stop singing the song," the powerful man tells Trickster, but he doesn't listen. He just keeps singing.

Then Trickster's penis starts talking. The big penis stands up and shouts: "Buffalo, do not come, stay away!"

When Trickster wants to copulate, he calls out to some girls, saying he wants to dance for them. But the penis shouts: "You girls, do not come. He only wants to abuse you! Stay away."

This happens several times: Trickster brags about things he really hasn't done, and his penis tells on him. Now he is embarrassed and wants his penis to shut up. Trickster asks the powerful man to help him, but the powerful man says he cannot. The only person who can help Trickster is a very ugly old woman. Even though Trickster does not want to, he visits the ugly woman in her tipi:

"He stays there for a long time. They did something in there. Trickster was not smiling when he came out of the ugly woman's tipi. He looked grim, but after that his penis never talked again.

"'How did the ugly woman cure you?"' a friend asked.

"'I don't want to talk about it,'" Trickster said."

It really is funny story with a clear meaning: Trickster is told not to use the song but once, but he wants to be a big shot. This tale is about Trickster being taken down, learning humility. The tale satirizes men in position of authority and power.

Of course the students were laughing and shaking their heads in wonder. It took them a while to figure out how to present the story: I can't wait to see what they do with it.

After class, I Googled "Talking Penis" and I found this delightful advertisement for condoms. Is this the new kind of Trickster Tale?

1 comment:

emmapeelDallas said...


What a great ad!

I loved it!




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