Monday, June 22, 2009

To Play the Fool - Fools and Folly

One of the most laugh-out-loud scenes in the book, on the order of "Who's on First", is Beatrice Jankowski's first interview with Kate and Al.

"... There's not a one of them playing with a full deck."
"And Brother Erasmus is as bad as the others, you said."
"I never!" she said indignantly.
"But you did. You called him a fool."
"A fool, certainly."
"But the others are fools, too?" asked Hawkin. He spoke with the caution of a man feeling for a way in the dark, but his words were ill chosen, and Beatrice went rigid, her eyes narrowing in a rapid reassessment of Inspectior Al Hawkin.
"They most certainly are not. They haven't any sense at all."
Brother Erasmus is a Holy Fool. In this book, Foolishness and Folly are the basis for a splinter religious movement, typified by using levity and busking to illustrate the weaknesses of society, and to attempt to solve the problems.

The earlier book of King's that we read was titled Folly. King uses the vehicle of street performers, buskers, fools and jesters through many of her books.

When we read Anansi Boys, Mr. Nancy was the keeper of all stories. A story teller is another form of Fool.

Fool. Jester. Trickster. Storyteller. Busker. While these characters are certainly not as prevalent now as they were in the past, we still see traces of them:

American Indian: Coyote, Raven
African: Spider, Rabbit
Norse: Loki
Greek/Roman: Hermes
English: Jack, Puck Robin
And many more

Fools and Folly have been celebrated across time - the Roman Saturnalia, our April Fools' Day, The Lord of Misrule in the Christian Feast of Fools (usually celebrated on New Year's Day).

These all celebrate levity and tricks to illustrate or bring about social change.

Brother Erasmus used the Fool persona to both protect and punish himself.

And, interestingly, the tear tattoo has recently taken on an entirly different connotation than the story King tells in this book.

I first read this book many years ago, and thought that a tear tattoo sounded kind of cool, in a rebellious, trickster sort of way. I'm so glad now I never got that tattoo!



King got her some of the quotations from a book titled Pefect Fools, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980. You can see large portions of that book in GoogleBooks.

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