An iserendip recounting and illustration of the witty folktales of the infamous court jester ‘Andare’
Andare was employed by King Rajadhi Rajasinghe (1782-1798) of the Kandyan Kingdom (1593-1815) the last kingdom of Sri Lanka. Andare was a skilled poet with superior intellect, a mischievous trickster and a witty jester, who provided great amusement to the King and Queen and thereby received much liberties at court. The King was very fond of Andare who could always make him laugh, and very aware of his mischievous brain often trying to outwit him and turn the tables on the jester’s tricks but never being able to prevail over Andare’s quick wit.
Mischievous Andare & The Two Deaf Women
It’s a wonderful morning in the hill capital of Kandy. It is the day of the Queen’s birthday and the palace is buzzing with activity in preparation for the grand celebrations of the night. Andare too is busy preparing for the dramatics expected of him on such an occasion having the special care of the magnificent decorations.
The Queen whilst on her inspection route is soon attracted by the mesmerising decorations and comes by to watch Andare and the manservants putting it all together. “Such beautiful decorations Andare,” says she, “was it you who designed them?” In fact, the designs were handmade by the jester’s wife and he proudly stated so to the Queen, which brings out an unexpected and unpleasant surprise for him. “Why that’s marvellous,” responds the Queen, “you must bring her around the palace so that I can thank her.” Andare’s brain at once goes into overdrive imagining his wife’s take on this. “Oh my, oh my, but I have nothing to wear to court, Andare. When should I go? What should I say? Or should not say?” He felt overwhelmed just imagining it.
He quickly concocts a lie to throw off the Queen’s interest. “My Lady, my wife would love that, but unfortunately she is a little deaf, Your Majesty would find it very awkward to converse with her. I will convey your kind wishes to her.” He smiles smugly as he sees the Queen rethink her invitation. “Oh, never mind that Andare, you bring her along, I will find a way.” The jester’s smug smile is wiped away as he tries to spurt out a further lie to dissuade the Queen, but she does not hear of it. “I will not hear any excuses Andare, it is my birthday today and this is the gift I ask of you.” Andare has no choice but to obey.
He walks back home with his head bowed down in thought. What on earth is he to say to his wife to explain the fact that she needs to pretend to be deaf. Suddenly, his prankster mind starts revving with excitement. When he reaches home, Andare tells his wife that the queen wishes to meet her at once and to come along with him. “But dear wife,” he instructs, “the Queen is a little deaf, you must speak very loudly, when you answer her.”
Soon the jester and his wife are off to the palace, after much ruckus at home. Andare unable to control his mischievous pleasure at what is to come, very nearly hops in delight whilst quietly chuckling to himself.
The Queen is in the courtyard instructing some decorations herself when she sees Andare’s wife approaching. “HELLO, YOU MUST BE THE WIFE,” she shouts and Andare’s wife quickens her step so that the Queen doesn’t have to shout so loudly across the courtyard. Once she reaches the Queen, she bows and smiles, but feels too shy to speak. “HOW ARE YOU,” says the Queen still shouting. The jester’s wife quickly recalls that the Queen is deaf. “QUITE WELL MY LADY, YOU ARE LOOKING SPLENDID TODAY.” The Queen is a little taken aback by the shouting but reminds herself of the deafness of her subject. “THANK YOU, BUT NOT AS SPLENDID AS YOUR DECORATIONS,” and the shouting match goes on, attracting the surrounding worker’s attention by its noise and they all gather around the two conversing women.
The King and his ministers too hearing the commotion approach to see what is happening. They see Andare rolling on the ground laughing holding his belly, behind the gathered crowd. Seeing Andare, they realize it is a trick by him and have a hearty laugh themselves.
The jester’s antiques soon redirect the bemused attention of the gathered crowd, as his cheeky prank soon dawns upon the them all. “HAPPY BIRTHDAY YOUR MAJESTY,” shouts Andare to the Queen, still rolling on the ground.