Friday, April 1, 2011

The Image of the Fool (in books, myth, and history) ~ for April 1st!


the fool

Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb like the sun, it shines everywhere. ~ William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

Its April Fool’s Day! 

One of our favorite days of the year. Its just another excuse to have a bit of silly fun.

Unlike last year - we have opted out and gone academic. If you would like a little trickster mirth please read on since last year John/JD and I had an absolute blast at our friends’ and readers’ expense here on Layers of Thought. The prank we played on April 1, 2010 links via this text, to the post which has been updated for newer readers so they may get a feel for the context of our prank. Do not be shocked!

Beyond our obnoxious playfulness, what I find intriguing about the fool is that it has mythical origins, so I have included a short snippet at the bottom of this post. I had fun and learned a lot.

The best bit is the books that I unearthed which are based around this archetypal image. So in the rare case that you don’t have enough to read here are eight, all based upon this satirical and truth exposing character - the fool.

Most have Medieval Themes ~ fools are everywhere

Fools Are Everywhere: The Court Jester Around the World ~ by Beatrice K. Otto (nonfiction)  US|UK|Canada444 pages; University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition published April 1, 2001.

A journey around the world in search of one of the most colorful characters in history—the court jester. These characters crop up everywhere, from the courts of ancient China and the Mogul emperors of India to those of medieval Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and the Americas highlighting their humanizing influence on people with power. Queen's Own Fool by Jane Yolen: NOOKbook Cover

Queen’s Own Fool ~ by Jane Yolen and Robert Harris (historical fantasy – Young Adult) US|UK|Canada. 390 pages; Philomel (May 22, 2000)

Only a few facts are known about Mary Queen of Scott's young female jester, le Jardiniere, but Jane Yolen and Robert Harris, have created a fascinating narrator based on what they do know. Le Jardiniere relates the tragic tale of the ill-fated 16th-century queen of Scotland. 

King's Fool ~ by Margaret Campbell Barnes (historical fiction) US|UK|Canada320 pages; Sourcebooks Landmark (April 7, 2009)

Published in 1959, here is a remarkable tale of the intrigue, ruthlessness, and majesty of the Tudor court. When country lad Will Somers lands himself the plum position of jester to the mercurial King Henry VIII, he has no idea that he's just been handed a front-row seat to history. 

Darkmans ~ by Nicola Barker (contemporary literary fiction) US|UK|Canada. 400 pages; Fourth Estate (May 2007)

An examination of the ways in which history can play jokes on us all... If History is just a sick joke which keeps on repeating itself, then who exactly might be telling it, and why?  - Could it be John Scogin, Edward IV's infamous court jester, whose favorite pastime was to burn people alive - for a laugh?

This novels was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.  

Fool ~ by Christopher Moore  (historical satire – humor/fantasy) US|UK|Canada311 pages; William Morrow; First Edition edition published February 10, 2009.
A man of infinite jest, Pocket has been Lear's cherished fool for years, from the time the king's grown daughters were mere girls. So naturally Pocket is at his brainless, elderly liege's side when Lear—at the insidious urging of Edmund, the bastard son of the Earl of Gloucester—demands that his daughters swear their undying love and devotion before a collection of assembled guests. Mayhem ensues and the only person who can possibly make things right . . . is Pocket, a small and slight clown with a biting sense of humor. Pocket may be a fool . . . but he's definitely not an idiot.     

Alas, Poor Yorick ~ by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (historical horror) Kindle only - US|UK. Hidden Knowledge (October 5, 2002)

An historical fiction adventure with dramatic interest since it's the "backstory" to Shakespeare's "Hamlet". All set in Elsinor Castle two decades before the events of the play, it features the political affairs and romantic entanglements that will lead inexorably to the events of the Tragedy of the Prince Hamlet.

The Fool's Girl ~ by Celia Rees (young adult – historical romance)  Soon to be released in paper back US|UK|Canada. Young Adult – grade 8 and up; 304 pages; Bloomsbury USA Children's Books; 1 edition published July 20, 2010.

Young and beautiful Violetta may be of royal blood, but her kingdom is in shambles when she arrives in London on a mysterious mission, but it is not until she meets the playwright William Shakespeare that she gets to tell the entire story. Violetta and her comic companion, Feste, have come in search of an ancient holy relic that the evil Malvolio has stolen from their kingdom. This original young adult story is spun from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Holy Fools by Joanne Harris: Book Cover

Holy Fools ~ by Joanne Harris (historical suspense) US|UK|Canada. 368 pages; William Morrow; 1st edition published February 3, 2004.

In the year 1605, a young widow, pregnant and alone, seeks sanctuary at the small Abbey of Sainte Marie-de-la-mer on the island of Noirs Moustiers off the Brittany coast. After the birth of her daughter, she takes up the veil, and a new name, Soeur Auguste. But the peace she has found in re-mote isolation is shattered five years later by the events that follow the death of her kind benefactress, the Reverend Mother.

And the question of the day is: which of these books would you read first?

Historical and Mythical info around ~ The Fool:

The Fool, Jester, Clown, Trickster is an image/character/archetype that is considered by scholars to be universal. It appears in many different forms in a variety of cultures throughout history. The fool has a playful but complex role – with the appearance of the fool there will be an opportunity for truth, balance, play, recreation, destruction, creation, and change. Interestingly scholars of mythology say that some cultures portray the trickster as either a hero or as a destroyer. Here are some examples of this archetype:

  • The Fool, known in Irish and Scottish Gaelic as Amandán is a social fairy, and is sometimes seen as wiser than their masters.
  • A similar role is played by the Mudhead clowns of the Hopi. In the Hopi rituals, the sacred clowns are combination jester and shaman.
  • The Norse god Loki is the instigator of conflicts.
  • The Raven trickster of the Northwest Indians brings fire to the people and is both a destroyer or creator.
  • The Fool or The Jester is one of the 78 cards in a Tarot deck and is used in divination as well as in game playing.
  • The Medieval jester commonly found in folklore, folktales, legends, and religious myths was one of the few characters in the court who could freely speak his conscious without causing offense.

April Fool’s Day Origins (via Wikipedia)

The true origins of April Fool’s Day appear to be lost in antiquity with a variety of mentions and suspected beginnings. However obscure its origins may be, it is a chance for us to use humor and have a bit of fun, which is why it is one of our personal fun days of the year -  especially the hoaxes!

For further research:

Academic findings and links around the multicultural Trickster from Mythic

Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry (1888) and The Celtic Twilight (1893) were written and edited by William Butler Yeats with both referencing the Irish and Gaelic fairy tricksters - Amandán.

Happy Fool’s Day!


Blodeuedd said...

Great and interesting post :)

Unknown said...

Thanks Blodeuedd -
I had fun... since we could not think of anything tricky to do for the

So which book would you read first? I know these are in your interest realm... big time!

Joann said...

I would read Holy Fools first!

Amy (ArtsyBookishGal) said...

This is a truly fascinating post. I came for the blog hop and stayed for the good reading. :)

Unknown said...

Joann -
Excellent choice. Holy Fools does sound great.

I think that would be my second choice. I am thinking - Alas, Poor Yorick - would be my first. Dark historical fiction... and Yarbro is someone that I have been interested in for a while now and this one is minus the vampires.

Artsy -
Thank you for the compliment. *big smile* It was part of my evil plan with the blog hop..... *bigger smile* (not that it always works)

I had a lot of fun creating this list and digging around for the historical info for the post. It definitely got me in the spirit of things.

Hobo Annie said...

I LOVE lists! And this one's great!I think Queen's Own Fool will be my first pick to add to the tottering pile of must reads. My personal favorite "Fool" book is The Jester, by James Patterson and Andrew Gross. Quite an adventurous read, with great historical detail and an awesome hero: the mild mannered innkeeper bent on revenging the death of his wife and child by posing as a jester to get close to the evil bad guy who was responsible? What's not to love? :)

Unknown said...

Annie -
I just love lists too... I just have so much fun finding these theme post books.

The funny thing is - is that I had The Jester on this list but 13 books was just too many. It was one that I gave up.

I down loaded Queen's Own Fool in sample form on my nook and have to say it looks really promising...

Would love to see what your think :)

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