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December 24, 2014 / Charlie McNabb

Bigfoot/Trickster Lecture

A couple weeks ago I gave a lecture on my Bigfoot research for an anthropology class at my institution. Generally, the instruction I do is library-focused (databases, scholarly versus popular, literature reviews, and so forth) but the anthropology department is so friendly, they are welcoming me as one of their own!

The class was an upper-division course exploring trickster characters cross-culturally and through history, so I decided to talk about similarities between Bigfoot and the trickster.

Trickster narratives typically involve a lot of duality: life/death, sacred/profane, wisdom/folly. Bigfoot narratives contain such oppositions, too. Is Bigfoot a human or an animal? Is it benevolent or evil? Another trickster similarity is the uncontrolled appetite. Many Bigfoot narratives focus on Bigfoot’s gluttony for food, sex, and stolen items. Also uncontrolled is Bigfoot’s grotesque body: it is said to be massive, hairy, with a foul odor, glowing red eyes, and (in the case of females) pendulous breasts.

I showed some photos from times spent with research participants and at Bigfoot events, and talked about ethics in ethnographic research and how belief and truth are ambiguous and negotiated in legend-telling. We had a great discussion, and the class picked up on some really interesting racialized elements in how Bigfoot is portrayed in popular culture. In the end, we decided that Bigfoot is probably not a neo-trickster, since it’s not a culture hero. But it certainly is interesting and has a lot in common.

I’ll leave you with this adorable carved wooden Bigfoot bust from the Bigfoot Lounge in Salem, Oregon.

Image of a carved wooden Bigfoot head and shoulders, sitting on a bench at a restaurant bar table. The face has a wide smile and flowing beard.

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