The Fool

The Protagonist

✨ Spoiler alerts for Moana, early Game of Thrones, The Lego Movie, Hamlet, and Arthurian legends.✨

The Fool is the protagonist at the beginning of their adventure, the start of their story.

Everyone is a Fool at some point in their lives.

Especially the main characters in myths and fairy tales.

They’re the hero with a thousand faces.

The Fool is innocent, a newborn babe, an idiot, our protagonist come to the horizon. They might lose their footing and fall off the edge of that frightful gulf, lost forever. Not likely though.

Zero is the beginning. And all beginnings are the beginning of the end. 0 is an endless cycle, a circle. An eternal return.

At zero, this darling is a blank slate. Faith and trust guide their wild adventure. Young, fresh, theirs is a soul that is unencumbered. Hence that lily white rose of perfect silence.

Their rose of silence also signifies that a great deal of the Fool’s transformation will take place sub rosa (under the rose) :: the phrase comes from Eros’ thank you rose to Harpocrates, the god of silence, for his discretion regarding his mother Aphrodite’s illicit affairs.

If you read the tarot like a book, we’re on this journey together, us and the Fool. We’ll follow them as we encounter each of the tarot’s archetypes and symbols.

Maybe it’ll work out, maybe it won’t. There are cliffs, some are tempting. There’s a French phrase I love, l’appel du vide, the call of the void, that urge to jump off a cliff.

Think of Sappho, or the little mermaid, singing on their way down, down into the sea’s jagged bed until their bodies were as broken as their hearts.

For our Fool, the sun is white and pure, just like the flower they hold. They’ve got their hobo sack full of not much and there’s all these white, silvery blue mountains behind him, all the things to come, the travails, but they’re not thinking about that now, not while all this golden yellow love is around them. Things are going to be great. 

There is a wolf-dog, tiny, absurd, at the Fool’s ankles. Both wild and domesticated, she reminds us of the unpredictable moon on this sunny day.

Maybe this is just another way of calling the Fool a child, an ankle-biter.

The Fool is naïve, like little Red Riding Hood, basket swinging, following her path (sexual maturity) to Grandma’s (old age). You see, Red Riding Hood wants to be devoured by the sexy wolf. (L’appel du vide.) From the wolf’s belly she will be reborn. 

In The Sword and the Stone, when Wart first meets Merlin, he bumbles through the forest all knees and elbows. This Fool is on his way out of the past and into the present. From childhood to adulthood, thinghood to personhood, paganism to Christianity, virgin to sage. In the opening scenes Merlin and Wart climb the hill of life, of knowledge, while this lone skinny wolf (Arthur’s own death) chases after him, lips smacking.

Because even high kings must die. Momento Mori

Some say the tarot can represent Arthur’s journey from Fool to the High King of Swords, and that’s fun. (The Fool’s conceptual opposite is the King of Swords.)

But the Fool is both Wart and Wolf. And Merlin too.

The Fool is everyone.

In other words, the Fool has many questions, lives many lives. 

They are Hamlet and his friends, dying their many deaths. 

Except while Hamlet mayhaps thinks too much, our Fool has no thoughts. In the tarot, clouds represents thoughts, and our Fool has nothing but clear skies. Lots of radiance, lots of yellow. After all, “Yellow is a color capable of charming God,” Van Gogh said.

Blissfully unaware of all the heartache and bullshit ahead, the protagonist is empty so we can put ourselves in their shoes, inside their mind. Especially in fairy tales and myths, the protagonist’s friends and minor foes tend to be more two-dimensional and colorful. Ron is funny, Hermione’s smart, Harry reacts. Harry has emotions and he is brave, but these are both reactions, as a result, he’s more three-dimensional, he’s universal, a blank slate, so that we can relate and through the power of good storytelling, we become Harry. Harry who is the hero and heart of the wizarding world, and it is he who shares a connection – a wand – with Voldemort, the enemy of the wizarding world. 

Moana disobeys her King of Cups father and leaves land for the ocean, the realm of the unconscious (replete with a realm of monsters). She’s gonna sail for the first time, all by herself, to find a demigod, convince him to board her boat and restore the heart of Te Fiti (the Great Mother Goddess, an Empress).  Moana, our Fool, is Te Fiti’s heart. Only when Moana brings herself to Te Kā (Te Fiti’s angry side, a lava monster, the other mother) is Te Fiti calmed back into who she really is, loving.

I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves,” wrote Cheryl Strayed, the girl who hiked through the Pacific Crest Trail by herself, out of shape and alone, she hiked through her grief and herself and now helps other proverbially do the same.

Rapunzel, the sun princess from Tangled, has never seen a man, never left her Tower. Her feet have never even touched grass before, but off she goes! To find some mysterious stars; i.e. herself, her family, the truth.

Alice, who chases the rabbit.

The rabbit, of course, being drugs, her own fertility, herself, her death, what you will.  

To quote P.L. Travers, “A true symbol always has this multisidedness. It has something to say to all who approach it

“[They give] off light in every direction,” she says.

Both sisters from Frozen are certainly Fools, and that’s double for their parents. 

Luke Skywalker is a Fool, so is Han and Vader and Mary Sue.

My beloved Steven Universe is a Fool, as is Garnet, Amethyst, Pearl, his mother, his father, and everyone else we know.

Bilbo then Frodo Baggins. Neville Longbottom. Hercules. Simba.

Every one of Hayao Miyazaki’s precious heroines.

Most Fools are lucky, most Fools make it to the end of the narrative.

The Fool will survive because the Fool is the hero/ine. They exist to overcome and more importantly, to inspire you to do the same.

Game of Thrones :: This makes Ned Stark’s death all the more moving. (Ned Stark, whose white wolf family sigil resembles the white rose of the Yorks. The Yorks, who fought the red Lancaster roses in the War of the Roses, the inspiration behind A Song of Fire and Ice.) If the hero is principled and good, we expect him to survive. Thwarting our expectations only works if the narrative is earned, otherwise, like when they attempted to pull the same trick in the end, the effect was as subtle as a brick and as satisfying as an old cup of coffee.

In order for the prophecy in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials to come true, it’s essential that Lyra Belacqua not know anything about her fate. She consults her alethiometer, a precious symbol reading instrument that predicts the future by giving the reader an ordered series of symbols. And just like in the tarot, meaning moves depending on the both questions she asks and the other symbols in the reading. Inside that multisidedness along the surface of each symbol, there is a tremendous depth. Layers and layers of concentric meanings. In Lyra’s world, scholars spend their whole lives trying to access and understand the secrets of the alethiometer. The Fool, of course, is a natural.

In the beginning of the Lego Movie, Emmett has to sit through a montage of all of his “friends” not remembering him, one even calls him a blank slate, and he is, he is a generic Lego piece. But he’s “the special,” the hero from the prophecy. “A special person with face of yellow will make the piece of resistance found.” The prophecy was a lie. The narrative’s Magician made up the prophecy as a weapon against the narrative’s Emperor, because, and this is the moral, literally anyone can break the trajectory and resist the dominant paradigm. Any one person can inject some hope into the hopelessness.

Even you, darlings.

Bibliography

The Book of Symbols; Reflections on Archetypal Images.

P.L. Travers.

Writing Exercise ::

Answer the questionnaire for each prominent character you wish to write about ::

Answer as many or as few as you like.

What do they want?

(This is the most important question you will ask.)

What makes them a Fool?

What is their goal?

What’s their big dream?

Name one-three archetypal traits of theirs.

What makes them mad/upset? (List one big, one small.)

What makes them happy? (List one big, one small.)

Who do they love? (Pets count, as do ideals, self, etc. List as much as you like.)

What are they passionate about?

What worries them?

Pet peeves?

What do they look like?

Where do they live? (In space and time, country and mood.)

What makes them different?

What do they do with their time?

Important/relevant memories from their backstory?

Associate 1-3 symbols with them.

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