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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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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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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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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Pillow talk

Pillow talk

One of the most famous jesters is Talhak, whose name may be derived from, or have spawned, the Persian word for jester (dalqak).  He is...

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On madness, feigned or real

On madness, feigned or real

It was a happy moment to discover this first hand account of a 10th century 'wise fool', Sībawayh the Egyptian (897-98 - 968-69 / 284-358). I am...

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How far back can we go?

How far back can we go?

The first specific reference we have (so far) to what might be a jester concerns a dwarf or a pygmy in ancient Egypt during the reign of Neferkere...

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I am a jester

I am a jester

As far as we know, the first Chinese jester on (available) record is Jester Shi (You Shi) who served Duke Xian during the reign of King Huiwang (r....

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The pits (II)

The pits (II)

Another example of Tenali Rama's quick-witted defiance. He is said to have served King Krsnadevaraya (r. 1509-1529), though in all probability was a...

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When I was melancholy

When I was melancholy

Attributed to the Mughal Emperor Akbar (r. 1556-1605), expressing his sorrow at the death of Birbal, the poet and courtier whose wit made him morph...

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The pits (I)

The pits (I)

A vivid example of a jester's talking his way out of imminent execution after overstepping the mark. Sometimes, even jesters went too far and got...

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