A juggling jester

Anna Leonowens, the original model for the female protagonist in the film The King and I, reacts to the dwarf jester, known as Mr. Little, at the court of King Mongkut of Siam (r. 1851-68).  We have already seen how he was recruited, talent-spotted by a brother of the king on his travels.  Apparently, Anna:

… found him revolting.  His head was covered with woolly hair, his forehead was low and receding, his eyes were set close like those of an ape, and were wild and rolling.  From his enormous mouth two great teeth protruded.  His ears were large, his chin sharp and pointed.  He was only a few inches more than three feet tall, and his legs were so short that except for the immense flat feet they seemed hardly strong enough to support his huge head and square shoulders. … It was this creature who now approached the beautifully appointed table and picked up a tureen of soup which he began to juggle audaciously to the breathless amazement of the guests… Nothing spilled!

Source: Margaret Landon, Anna and the King of Siam (New York: 1945), p. 189, quoted in G. Kalff, Opkomst, Bloei en Verdwijning van de Hofnar (Amsterdam: De Poortpers, 1954), p. 26

Image credit: Design for a Lidded Tureen, drawing, anonymous, French, 18th century; Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Raphael Esmerian, 1963


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