Keeper of the geese

This tale of a fool throttling goslings in his care is told here of the Scottish jester Jamie Fleeman, but it bears such a striking resemblance to a better known gosling throttler, namely the German jester Claus Narr, that it may be a fictive attribution; there are several of these kind of generic jester anecdotes, haphazardly attributed to this or that real or mythical fool.  When you see the same story crop up in the name of different fools, it begs the question of which was the original ‘true’ anecdote, assuming the tale was hung upon a truthful peg.  

All part of what makes it so enjoyable to trace fools and their stories on the spectrum of real-historic to half-true to wholly-made-up (either the fool or the story or both). 

In this version of the goose strangler story, Jamie seems sly enough to cook up an excuse for their deaths. 

He complemented his jesting duties with those of a cow-herd and goose-guardian and when he one day grew irritated by the geese wandering willy-nilly, he twisted some straw rope around their necks and started walking home, unaware they were being throttled one by one.  By the time he realised, it was too late and since it was a rare breed of geese, he would have been in big trouble.  So he dragged the corpses into the poultry yard and stuffed their throats with food.  When asked whether the geese were safe and sound, he replied cheerfully, ‘Safe! they’re gobble, gobble, gobblin’ as if they had nae seen meat for a twalmonth!  Safe!  Ise warran’ they’re safe aneuch, if they hae nae choked themsells.’

Source: J.B. Pratt, The Life and Death of Jamie Fleeman, The Laird of Udny’s Fool, 3rd edn (Aberdeen: Lewis Smith, 1912), pp. 53-54

Image credit: Boy looking at a gaggle of geese (1889), Erik Werenskiold, ink on paper; National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Norway.


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