Continuing with the April Fools’ theme, I thought I’d look at some court fools in the Oz series. There’s some overlap here with the poets and rhymers. For instance, the Rhyming Dictionary was the Book of Royalty’s jester until he ran away. Like the Shakespearean fool, he gave good advice disguised as nonsense, and the king didn’t properly appreciate it. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has china clowns among the inhabitants of the China Country. One of them, Mr. Joker, is cracked all over from trying to stand on his head.
Bunnybury in Emerald City has the tumbling Whiskered Friskers and the Royal Jugglers. Some of Chris Dulabone and Marin Elizabeth Xiques’s books that involve Bunnybury feature a not-too-successful rabbit jester named Martin Hopwell as a significant character.
In Royal Book, a man named Happy Toko has the job of beating the drum at the approach of the Emperor of the Silver Island. When the Scarecrow is in this position, he finds that the drum blows him around too much, but keeps Happy on as his Imperial Punster. In this position, he makes jokes and sings comic songs. Grampa includes a visit to the town of Play, inhabited by “Pierrettes and Pierrots, hundreds of them, the girls in full skirted frocks with tall saucy caps, the men in pantaloon suits with frills.”
The ruler, King Capers, looks “exactly like a court jester,” and carries a “belled and beribboned scepter.” The Play Fellows are very serious about play, and so rough that the visitors don’t have fun there. It’s a noisy place with a merry-go-round, swingsets, balloon vines, top trees, and checker bushes. The town is a contrast to another place visited in the same book, Monday Mountain, where the residents spend practically all their time doing laundry.
Kimbaloo in Lost King has a Town Laugher named Hah Hoh, who basically serves the role of a jester, but also helps out the king when he has too much laughing to do.
There’s also a Town Crier for sad occasions, but he doesn’t get as much work.
There’s also a Town Crier in John R. Neill’s books, who announces the news in the Emerald City while weeping.
I wonder if Neill remembered the minor Lost King character when inventing his own Crier. In the Sapphire City, a juggler named Palumbo entertains King Cheeriobed’s court by balancing objects on his nose and chin. It’s interesting to me that “Palumbo” totally sounds like a name Ruth Plumly Thompson would have invented, but it’s actually a real Italian surname. In Yellow Knight, one of the first Corumbians to be disenchanted is the court jester Peter Pun.
He was turned into a funnysuckle vine with tinkling bell-like blossoms, and all the birds who came in contact with the vine would burst out in laughter.
Umbrella Island has the Royal Su-jester Bamboula, who’s both an adviser and an entertainer. He carries a drum around with him, and the word “bamboula” refers to an African drum made largely of bamboo, as well as a dance accompanied by this sort of drum.
Incidentally, since he’s named after an African instrument and we know Umbrella Island has black inhabitants (typically for the time period, the only one mentioned is a servant), perhaps it would make sense for him not to be a white guy. The main villain in Roger Baum’s Dorothy is Gayelette’s jester, who discovered the Wicked Witch of the West’s magic wand and became corrupted by it, leading him to turn many Ozites into china figures. I believe the upcoming film version changes his origin somewhat by making him a brother of the Wicked Witches. And in Melody Grandy’s Tippetarius, we meet Summer Saltin, court jester to Queen Celestia of the Rimmers, who is cursed by her ruler to always speak in limericks. Zim frees her from the spell, and Ozma appoints her Queen of the Rimmers in place of the deposed Celestia. When Scraps meets Summer, she admits that she’s somewhat of a jester herself, although it’s never been her official title.