Today being April Fool’s Day, I thought it appropriate to begin with April’s Fool. The fool in story is a common phenomenon. The medieval court jester or fool had the king’s ear, was to amuse the king - so the king thought. But the Jester or Professional Fool could tell the king anything. And maybe, just maybe the king would listen. So saith my jester friend, Miles Eddy. And believe me, Miles is nobody’s Fool.
Then there are the noodlehead stories. Stories where a character or characters are so foolish that the audience waits only for the scene to be set. After which the audience anticipates how the story will go. The noodlehead stories are in many cultures. Such stories include the Fools of Chelm (Jewish), foolish Jack (British), Nasreddin Hodja (Turkish), Jean Sot (Cajun), and lazy Heinz (German), Polite Jack (Appalachia). And, yes, there is a southern noodlehead tale, some of you may have heard it – Epaminondas. Sara Cone Bryant wrote down Epaminondas and His Auntie in 1907. Whether the story was concocted in Ms Bryant’s head or someone told it to her, I do not know.
My mother told the story to me when I was a child in the 1950’s. When I needed a foolish story to tell in a workshop a friend and I were giving, I thought of Epaminondas, found my copy and learned it. Recently (2002) Epossumondas and His Auntie was written by Coleen Salley and illustrated by Janet Stevens. In this version of the story the main character, a boy, is replaced with a possum. So it is the possum who is the fool. This was when I was still working as a school librarian. It was a student who brought home to me the fact that I could pair my telling of Epaminondas with a reading of Epossumondas for a compare and contrast lesson. And be sure you hear the version Donna Washington tells! Auntie is Grandma in her version. It was my grandsons’ favorite story the year I lived in Florida and was their caretaker because, “Even if you drive your mama crazy, your grandma will always love you.”
You might also enjoy Donna's Blog - she tells it like it is when comes to Language, Literacy and Storytelling!
We've all done foolish things from time to time. Noodlehead stories help us laugh at ourselves when we do. When was the last time you laughed at yourself?