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The Fool art by Bob Orsillo
The root of the word "fool" is from the Latin follis, which means "bag of wind" or that which contains air or breath.
In Tarot, "The Fool" is the first card of the Major Arcana. The tarot depiction of the Fool includes a man, (or less often, a woman), Juggling unconcernedly or otherwise distracted, with a dog (sometimes cat) at his heels. The fool is in the act of unknowingly walking off the edge of a cliff, precipice or other high place. Another Tarot character is Death. In the Middle Ages Death is often shown in Jester's garb because "The last laugh is reserved for death." Also, Death humbles everyone just as Jesters make fun of everyone regardless of standing.
In literature, the jester is symbolic of common sense and of honesty, notably in King Lear, the court jester is a character used for insight and advice on the part of the monarch, taking advantage of his license to mock and speak freely to dispense frank observations and highlight the folly of his monarch. This presents a clashing irony as a "greater" man could dispense the same advice and find himself being detained in the dungeons or even executed. Only as the lowliest member of the court can the jester be the monarch's most useful adviser.
Author Alan Gordon also writes about jesters as advisers to the king, who actually make up a super-secret spy ring that try to keep peace and control the leaders of different countries. The Fool's Guild of these novels is portrayed as a mockery to the church, and they refer to Jesus Christ as "Their Savior, The First Fool."
December 2nd, 2010
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