Why Five Fools?

The Five Fools of The Fools' Journey

part one:
Thoughts and Deeds and Feelings

When it started out as the Fool’s Taro, it commenced with just the Jester. and all of the imagery in the tabloids fitted around him. Now there are the five different archetypes I often get asked “why those five?” and “what is the significance of each?”.

Curiously, I was never asked the significance of The Jester when there was just The Jester. I know that for some, especially in a historical context, the Fool and the Jester are somewhat interchangeable terms, but is that in itself the reason? Would it have been possible to describe The Journey pictographically with just the Jester? After all, people at least understand the concept of the Jester, don’t they? And if that understanding is wrong, should the Jester even be there, or exorcised from the work altogether?

It wasn’t really a conscious decision to make it five fools initially.

There is no deep profound numerological thinking, no linking pentagrammatically to pagan symbology. It comes from a simple need to expand the pantheon, and the first to join in an overt way was The Auguste. I say overt, because the clues to The scarecrow have been plain to see within the Live and Love Tabloid almost from day 1, and it’s the one Tabloid that’s been relatively unchanged in three decades. At its inception though, it was to be a single appearance within a particular story to be told, so more on that later.

The Auguste then was initially to add a more knockabout, slapstick style of tomfoolery because I was not happy to see the Jester in this role. He was supposed to represent a more cerebral foil for the fellow journeyman, and the idea of him using clumsiness, even that feigned clumsiness of the circus clown, didn’t seem to fit- it just didn’t seem an appropriate use of The Jester’s abilities.

Then it hit me- insert custard pie gag here- why try to force The Jester to be a circus clown when I could just as easily use the ready made clown. Enter The Auguste. He was initially a straight swap out on a couple of the tabloids, which amounted to little more than a costume change to satisfy my own misgivings. It was to trigger a whole new train of thought however. If the Jester wasn’t right for the knockabout stuff, what else needed a rethink? It was in these thoughts, scribbles, rambles and meditations that the project moved away from illustration’s for Maha Abu’s singular Fool’s Taro and the Fools’ Journey started to manifest itself.

Lots of questions then. If a singular fool could no longer adequately represent this Journey, then how many fools would be required? If it’s to be a chronicle of a journey, then which journey? From where to where? And to what purpose? Is it a collection of parables on the human condition, little vignettes intended to illuminate in a charming way, or a huge philosophical cosmology drawn out in an epic scale? These questions, and dozens like them, have been asked, answered, ruminated, reframed, revisited and revised over the last twenty years, and will continue to be so.

Anyway. Fools. These are rambles and will on occasion go off on tangents. They’ll all make sense in the end, I’m sure. Ish.

So yes, we now had two fools on the Tabloids, and questions to go with them. If The Auguste was to relieve The Jester of teachings that were more physical in nature, then perhaps the emotional teachings could also have a similar tutor, a duty which very quickly fell to The Pierrot. Now with a staff of three Fools with distinct curricula, it would now be easier to illustrate a particular mindset, feeling or action and anchor them with one specific archetype. The System of The Law of Paradoxes was there to see, and in its expansion the project started to come together much more tangibly.

Jester. Auguste. Pierrot. Three very different clowns that can all be seen, referenced and experienced. They are very real in every sense, and history books can even give us the names of such characters. The Auguste can be seen in circuses all around the world even today. For The Jester and The Pierrot, Rigoletto and Pagliacci are fine starting points.

Part Two:
The Enlightened Fool of Unseen Worlds

OK, so we have arrived at the situation where we have the three human fools, The Auguste, The Jester and The Pierrot, to teach us of the human frailties of our physical, mental and emotional selves. There was still something missing though. These three facilitators, admirable though they were, could only be part of the equation. They signpost us to a level of significance by careful orchestration of those processes within us, but to use Buddhist analogy there is no enlightened being at the end of the journey. No obvious Buddha or bodhitsatva.

The solution came while enjoying Shakespeare in the open at Wallington Hall in Northumberland. Special thanks must go to the late, great Frank Jarvis, as he beaconed out to me so clearly the component I was looking for. Right there on the makeshift stage was his wonderful portrayal of The Harlequin. Seemingly invisible to the players, he narrates and foretells of their approaching circumstance. Their actions, words and importantly their attitude were underlined for all to see. All but the individuals themselves that is. So absorbed are they in their own greed, pride, bitterness or other selfish focus that they can’t see what is clear to those who have the patience and serenity to observe.

This then is The Harlequin of the Fools’ Journey. On one level he is the guardian and guide to the unseen worlds, but he has a more immediate purpose. There are things within our lives that are as inevitable as tomorrow’s sunrise, and which don’t need a higher or psychic power to predict. We could prevent some of the events that will befall us by observing our own actions (and the effect they have on others) as those that have the eyes to see observe our actions, but taking those clues from the unseen worlds that Creation invariable shows us.

Part Three:
A Fool from the very beginning

Much more about The Harlequin as we travel further on our Journey, but it’s time to introduce the final member of the cast, The Scarecrow. His arrival was one that caught me off guard, and fundementally changed many of the tabloids from the moment he turned up. The need was there for a fifth fool, I knew that. If the Journey now had an end state- The Harlequin- and three physical fools to help get us there, there is now a glaring omission, the pureborn fool.

Those who have studied some of the Grail romances will have the reference I am sure, but for those that don’t, I needed a Parzival. In many versions of the story Parzival is the first of the knights to attain the grail. The rest of the knights, who were trained from youth in the ways of chivalry, and in the standards and principles of court, were not of a sufficient level of attainment to lift the Holy Grail. Even the greatest of names in those epic tales, such as Lancelot and Galahad, fell short of what was required. Parzifal was different. A naturally clean soul, not highborn, and free from prejudice and familiarity, without the need to be trained.

There is a belief among a number of the Judeo-Christian denominations that we are all born sinners, which is the absolute opposite of this author’s philosophy. Personally. I think the notion of a sinner is an adult construct- or at least one that should only be applied to one with a rational, conscious, decision making mind. A newborn baby is quite probably the closest thing to purity there is, with no concept of avarice, gluttony or wickedness. It has no place for out of control ego, and no manufactured identity with which to try to impress people it doesn’t like.

I needed then to find a way to incorporate these two characteristics into a single fool, and it turned up when I was least expecting it. I was rereading L Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz, and there, standing in the middle of the field was Scarecrow, who embodies both the natural nobility of Parzifal (rather than the falsehood of aristocratic nobility) and the sheer joyful innocence of the newborn. The Scarecrow is made in the form of an adult, but with none of the experiences that can make us bitter or cynical or greedy. He still has those fine alignments that tend to get lost as we grow away from our birth state. His personal Grail was to see him become the Ruler of Oz, the most worthy of successors, by virtue of the fact he had no brain.

So there we have it. The fifth and youngest member of the cast was here, fitting perfectly into the final role in the pantheon.