Folly is a divine state

Folly is a divine state

There, doesn't that make you feel better?  However, note that in being a divine state, you are no more entitled to be proud than ashamed of it. 'It...

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Fedor’s fools

Fedor’s fools

Giles Fletcher was appointed English ambassador to Tsar Fedor I (r. 1584-98) on 6th June 1588. His account of his stay in Moscow was one of the most...

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A jester steps in

A jester steps in

One class of jester anecdotes concerns their intervening on behalf of others, cajoling or otherwise eliciting random acts of forebearance or...

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Do you know everything?

Do you know everything?

Another example of a jester interceding to mitigate cruelty or suffering. Here the legendary Nasrudin corners the great Tamerlane (1336-1405) to...

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How to top a top minister

How to top a top minister

A charming tale of a prominent jester's landing himself in the bad books of a powerful minister but being saved from wrathful retribution by the...

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In fear of his wife

In fear of his wife

There is a whole class of jester stories involving rhyming or other witty ditties to make fun of or entertain the ruler.  Here a jester uses one to...

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The proper time and place

The proper time and place

There is much debate as to whether the stock comic character of Sanskrit drama, the vidusaka, is or is not a court jester. This will be teased out...

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Finding a fool

Finding a fool

Court fools seem often to have been recruited in a haphazard talent-spotting manner; this is not the only example of someone noticing a suitable...

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Ask a foolish question

Ask a foolish question

I liked this example of a fool in a Russian household, as described by Tolstoy in War and Peace. I also like the buffoon's nonsense response to a...

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The maharajah’s dwarf

The maharajah’s dwarf

The roles of dwarfs and jesters in court often overlapped; a notable number of jesters were dwarfs and plenty of dwarfs were viewed as jesters. Here...

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The old parachutist

The old parachutist

Russia has a long and noble tradition of holy fools, and I was struck by this spontaneous example from the Second World War recounted by Vasily...

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Folly’s compliment

Folly’s compliment

Erasmus' Folly yet again turns things on their head, assuring us that her rebukes are a compliment. Presumably, if she bothers to upbraid you, you...

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The mirror of fools

The mirror of fools

The mirror is a recurring theme in the history of folly, particularly in Europe, where there are many images of a fool holding up a mirror, whether...

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Why we need humour

Why we need humour

A comment by the cartoonist Chappatte about the need for humour even, or particularly during, times of stress; his observation came in the wake of...

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Happy Fools’ Day

Happy Fools’ Day

On vous souhaiteune très belle fêteavec trompettes.Pour être honnêtela fête des fousest revenue:le seul jour oùfaut qu'on avouequ'on soit tous...

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To be wise, be a fool

To be wise, be a fool

Couldn't be clearer, the Bible tells us that wisdom is the domain of fools:   And that which we call 'wise', is nought but foolishness in God's...

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Why God loves fools

Why God loves fools

Erasmus, speaking in the voice of Folly, reminds us that God prefers fools to those who 'think too much'.  He draws on the Bible, which lays it out...

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Happy to see you

Happy to see you

This anecdote from Sima Guang's 11th century historical record, the Comprehensive Mirror in Aid of Governance, gives an insight into the personal...

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Can’t live without you

Can’t live without you

Here the charming, wise and witty Lady Folly merrily explains why any king worth his salt would surround himself with fools in preference to...

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Coming to the rescue

Coming to the rescue

Jesters could use their freedom in the court to intervene on behalf of others. In most cases this would mean interceding with the king to protect...

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A passing endorsement

A passing endorsement

We will be featuring proverbs and quotations highlighting the fact that fools often have a capacity to hit the nail on the head. Here, from an...

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More than you bargained for

More than you bargained for

There is a class of stories featuring jesters requesting favours or gifts from the ruler. Many jesters were dwarfs, and here we have a god disguised...

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Two types of seriousness

Two types of seriousness

Seriousness may not seem a suitable subject for a website on fools and jesters. However, it is a grave error to consider that what is funny can't be...

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A bag of rice

A bag of rice

Jesters and jester types were regularly rewarded by the king or other head honcho for their services.  In addition to accounts of such gifts and...

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A fool in fur-lined cloaks

A fool in fur-lined cloaks

European court account books yield rich details concerning the kind of clothes provided to fools and jesters. They also provide insights into the...

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Open, open, open!

Open, open, open!

From the Roman de Rou, the 12th century verse chronicle of the Normans commissioned by the English king Henry II, in which the author Robert Wace...

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Healing through laughter

Healing through laughter

From an excellent study of Pueblo Indian clowns in North America, this is a beautiful and limpid summary of the role of clowns, as apparently...

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How to pay for a funeral

How to pay for a funeral

The 10th century Chinese jester Li Jiaming 李家明 (Adding Clarity Li) needed some money to pay his mother's funeral expenses. When the emperor had some...

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The Sultan’s jester

The Sultan’s jester

Physical deformity was in many times and places a positive asset in a jester, as this example from the 1001 Nights demonstrates. In other contexts,...

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Jester takes the throne

Jester takes the throne

A recurrent theme in the fool-king relationship is that of role-swapping, more formally known as 'inversion'. Fools, jesters, clowns, are often said...

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Time to choose a new chief

Time to choose a new chief

The court jester often has a certain closeness to the boss he serves, challenging them, criticizing them, but not normally getting them chucked out....

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So who was asking for him?

So who was asking for him?

Some of the most startling examples of a jester's being impudent to the point of lèse-majesté can be found in anecdotes concerning Emperor...

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