Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Social Science Indigenous Studies

Laughing with the Trickster

On Sex, Death, and Accordions

by (author) Tomson Highway

House of Anansi Press Inc
Initial publish date
Sep 2022
Indigenous Studies, Native Americans, Folklore & Mythology
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2022
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2022
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it


Brilliant, jubilant insights into the glory and anguish of life from one of the world’s most treasured Indigenous creators.

Trickster is zany, ridiculous. The ultimate, over-the-top, madcap fool. Here to remind us that the reason for existence is to have a blast and to laugh ourselves silly.

Celebrated author and playwright Tomson Highway brings his signature irreverence to an exploration of five themes central to the human condition: language, creation, sex and gender, humour, and death. A comparative analysis of Christian, classical, and Cree mythologies reveals their contributions to Western thought, life, and culture—and how North American Indigenous mythologies provide unique, timeless solutions to our modern problems. Highway also offers generous personal anecdotes, including accounts of his beloved accordion-playing, caribou-hunting father, and plentiful Trickster stories as curatives for the all-out unhappiness caused by today’s patriarchal, colonial systems.

Laugh with the legendary Tomson Highway as he illuminates a healing, hilarious way forward.

About the author

Tomson Highway was born near Maria Lake, Manitoba in 1951. His father, Joe, was a hunter, fisherman and sled-dog racer, and his family lived a nomadic lifestyle. With no access to books, television or radio, Highway’s parents would tell their children stories; thus began Highway’s life-long interest in the oral tradition of storytelling. When he was six, Highway was taken from his family and placed in residential school in The Pas; he subsequently went to high school in Winnipeg and then travelled to London to study at the University of Western Ontario, earning a music degree in 1975 and a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1976. Instead of becoming a professional concert musician as he had at one point contemplated, however, Highway decided instead to dedicate his life to the service of his people. Fluent in Cree, English and French, he was for six years the artistic director of Native Earth Performing Arts, the first and most enduring Native professional company in Canada which he also helped found. From 1975 to 1978 Highway worked as a cultural worker for the Native Peoples’ Resource Centre. He has worked for the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Culture and also for the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres as a program analyst. From 1983 to 1985 he worked as a freelance theatre artist before becoming the artistic director of the De-ba-jeh-mu-jig Theatre Company in 1986. He has been writer-in-residence at the University of Toronto, University of British Columbia, and Concordia University. Tomson Highway is widely recognized for his tremendous contribution to the development of Aboriginal theatre in both Canada and around the world. In 1994, he was inducted into the Order of Canada, the first Aboriginal writer to be so honoured.

Tomson Highway's profile page

Editorial Reviews

One of the central pleasures of reading Highway’s text [is] his insistence on humour, often of a baldly ribald variety. Contrasted with European traditions full of deities who never crack a smile, the Trickster in Highway’s tradition is ‘zany.’ … By examining Indigenous stories, ways of living, dying, and – yes – laughing, … Highway [offers] powerful alternatives to hierarchical structures of society that insist on consuming the Earth’s natural resources at an unsustainable pace … If we can come to understand that our societal constructs are simply stories, and that we have the power to change those stories, there may be hope for our species and our planet. And if we can manage to find a way to laugh while we do it, so much the better.

That Shakespearean Rag

This book is funny, innovative, and will capture your attention from the very beginning.

Cloud Lake Literary

Highway’s approach is dynamic, and based in humour … Despite its lofty subject matter, most of the book feels utterly personal, and very intimate; the chapters may be performance pieces, later released on the radio, but the connection is as close as that of a small group around a fire.

Quill & Quire

The humour here might be outrageous, but it is also kind. … It is a book of wisdom and healing and, ultimately, a book of joy.

Miramichi Reader

Highway’s determinedly positive view of his early life … carries over to this series of lectures. … He is a storyteller who has gathered many stories and lived many lives himself.

Winnipeg Free Press

The trickster infuses Highway’s narrative; his stories … are fueled by a gentle and affecting humor.

World Literature Today

Other titles by