The Legacy of Fools

There are few holidays I hate more than April Fools’ Day. Why? Because I was always the butt of the joke as a kid, not the one on the other end. So I have a lot of sympathy and compassion for those folks who find themselves in a similar fate every year on this day.

Fool Tarot CardBut it always makes me think of the “Fool” and how they have been used in stories recently and through the ages.

Recently, on the show Galavant, the fool was not only one of the main characters, but the narrator/announcer. His role changed from awful joke teller and secret lover in the first season to the confidant to an imprisoned princess and playmate of a young king-to-be in the second.

And then with comic books, I must tip my hat to the Joker and his first girl of crime, Harley Quinn. The incarnation of these I’m most familiar with was from Batman: The Animated Series. The pair offered devious humor with a hint of playfulness and the way they were able to play off one another makes them one of my favorite criminal couples of all time. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Mark Hamill and Arleen Sorkin played them behind the scenes with such glee.

However, I have to go back to one of the first place I encountered the role of the jester, which was with the works of William Shakespeare. It was with Hamlet and Yorick that I established a baseline for these characters of wit and wisdom.

“Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar? (Hamlet, V.i)”

Through this passage I learned not just that a jester was someone there to entertain but to encourage others on flights of fancy. As a parent, I think we all become this version of the fool if we’re doing our jobs right. And GMs aren’t too far from that mark either.

yoricks-skullLastly, the Fool (or the Jester) plays an important role in the classic Tarot deck. Usually interpreted as the protagonist, he is ready to step into the story unfolding with each card laid before the reader. And he is always full of potential, even if he doesn’t see it himself. He must learn the lessons of life in order to stumble from day to day…

I would hope that we are all that version of the Fool in our lives – full of untapped potential and story possibilities. In our role-playing games, all of our PCs play the role of the fool – learning where they fit in the grand scheme of the story and world woven by our talented GMs and storytellers.

The Fool is one of those constants in our lives if we choose to look, so I wish you a happy and joy filled day – not one filled with cruelty and unkind tricks. 🙂

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