Tiddley-Bits tea

Tiddley-Bits tea

Friday, 1 April 2011

{the fool}

Happy Fool's Day!

I recently finished The Lyre of Orpheus, the last book in a trilogy by Robertson Davies, which includes The Rebel Angels (1981) and What's Bred in the Bone (1985). Davies was my father's mentor and professor at UofT, and is one of Canada's best. I can see where my Dad gets his amazing writing skills & wit from. Like Davies' other novels, the tale weaves together the lives of various academics, painting a picture of life in academia so true to those of us privy to this strange world. As an Art Historian, this trilogy also struck home as it includes allusions to the art historical world, including paintings, forgeries, and collections, and most interestingly the story of a fascinating triptych. But what does this have to do with the Fool? Well, Simon Darcourt, an Anglican clergyman and professor of Greek, who appears in the earlier novels as a plumpy and uninteresting character, is the key to unravelling the mysteries and thus bringing all the disparate parts of the trilogy together, as he takes on the persona of The Fool. Being The Fool, Darcourt now feels the impulse to do things forbidden and clandestine.
"He was the Fool, the only one of the Tarot figures who was happily in motion—not falling as in the Tower, not endlessly revolving as in the Wheel of Fortune, not drawn ceremonially by horses as in the Chariot, but off on foot, bound for adventure...But had Darcourt, in all his eminently respectable life, ever had a real adventure? That was what the Time of Myth seemed to be urging him to do. When the time comes for truth to speak, it may choose an unfamiliar tongue; the task is to heed what is said.
When he left the forests to return to his life and its burdens, Simon Darcourt was a changed man. Not a wholly new man, not a man one jot less involved in the life of his duties and his friends, but a man with a stronger sense of who he was."

In this sense, the Fool can be a good card to have. The Fool encourages adventure, encourages one to think about who one really is. So on April Fool's, I urge you to find that self.

The best pranks of all time? You can find them listed on the museum of hoaxes website, which lists the best 100 April Fool's of all time. My personal favourites are:
{On April 1, 1957 the British news show Panorama broadcasted a three-minute segment about a spaghetti harvest in southern Switzerland. From museum hoax}
{On April 1, 1977, The Guardian published a seven-page report regarding San Serriffe, a small republic located in the Indian Ocean consisting of several semi-colon-shaped islands}
 I love the look of old tarot cards, a popular game in the Italian courts in the Early Modern Period.
Here are some images of the Fool card:

{Bonifacio Bembo, The Fool, part of the Visconti-Sforza tarot deck, 1460-1470}
The Ship of Fools was also a common motif, taken from a satire originally published 1494 in Basel, Switzerland by Sebastian Brant.

{1549 woodcut edition}

{ Hieronymus Bosch, The Ship of Fools (study), c. 1500, Wash on gray paper, Musée du Louvre, Paris}
  Here's a 20th century Fool:

{Heinrich Vogtherr, The Fool , 1513-1568}
I love this carefully crafted fool's cap made out of silver & a coconut:

{Leonhard I BRÄM, Cup in the shape of a fool's head, 1556, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, image from wga}
 To finish, I couldn't leave out this well-known depiction of the Fool with a map for a face held in the collections of the Bodleian (Shelfmark: Douce Portfolio 142(92))


  1. 'sup fu? Loving the imagery.... some of those fools could do with a wax job, though. Just sayin'....