In stories ranging from subtle creation myths to derisive, off-color tales, the Kalapalo Indians of central Brazil demonstrate a fascination with deception and its many functions. In myths about tricksters and dupes, they explore the ambiguity of human experience, showing how important to human understanding is a sense of illusion, paradox, and contradiction.
Ellen Basso's new study of these stories considers their relationship to other kinds of Kalapalo activities involving deception and features a unique collection of South American Indian narratives translated directly from performances by master storytellers in their original Carib language. Combining an ethnopoetic, performance-focused approach to storytelling with an action-oriented psychology, Basso arrives at an ethnographic understanding of Kalapalo trickster myths and Kalapalo ideas about deception.
The commentary on the translations considers matters of theme, discourse, narrative progression, and performance context. The dialogical, interactive nature of Kalapalo storytelling, the development of characters through their conversations with one another, and the many ways storytelling and ordinary life enrich one another are examined to reveal the complex psychology of trickster myths and the special tricksterish quality of day-to-day Kalapalo behavior.