The joke is, of course, that there are twelve experts in the world on jesters and fools and I’m the thirteenth.
I don’t know if that’s a fact or not, but I’ve done SO much research on jesters and fools over the past few years that it certainly feels true.
My fascination with jesters and fools started when I was in high school (or was it junior high?), and a good friend of mine finished laughing at a joke I had just made. She looked at me and said, “Jenny, I think you must have been a court jester in a previous life.” There was nothing left to do except start writing a book about a girl jester.
The basic problem with research is that there just aren’t that many books about jesters and fools out there, and it’s even more difficult to find primary sources. The most fascinating primary source I found is A Banquet of Jests and Merry Tales by Archie Armstrong, the court jester to King James I and King Charles I, which I would highly recommend. It takes a while to get through the “original quaint spelling” and some of the stories seem like old jokes your crazy uncle would tell and expect you to laugh at, but it’s completely worth it.
My favorite part about reading books about jesters and fools? The authors all have a sense of humor in their writing.
The Fool: His Social and Literary History by Enid Welsford is the original (English) fool book. (I managed to find my copy on Amazon a while ago for a ridiculously low price compared to what they’re selling them for now, but, as of this update, alibris.com also has a copy for sale.) I originally got a copy from my library if you just want to read it once, but I had to have a copy of my own. And check out this book cover that I found online. Totally wish I had that one instead of my delightfully creepy paperback version, but since this hardback version is $85, I’m good. I talk a lot about The Fool by Ms. Welsford in my review of nonfiction books about jesters and fools.
One book that is missing from my research (and seems to be the one that started it all) is the elusive (and apparently never translated) Geschichte Der Hofnarren by Karl Friedrich Flögel. I really wish I could find a way to read this book. It feels like something is missing from my jester/fool knowledge. (Although now that I’m updating this page, I’ve discovered that Amazon has a copy for $40. But in German. And I have a German friend, but I’m not sure she likes me enough to translate an entire book for me…)