An iserendip recounting and illustration of the 18th century 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.
Jester Andare & The Rooster at the Royal Pond
As per custom it was the usual practice that the King’s retinue of his most trusted ministers accompany him to the royal pond for his bath. Even in the breezy and mild climate of the hill capital Kandy, certain days towards the month of April could get scorching hot. This was the time when the court took the greatest pleasure in spending an afternoon dipping and frolicking in the cool waters of the royal pond. Now, on these afternoon trips Andara was a treasured member of the bathing party as he always gained the King’s favour by playing utterly mischievous tricks on the most esteemed members of the court; the King’s closest advisors and ministers.
The ministers who were always the brunt of his jokes were getting quite fed up of Andare’s tricks and being laughed at. One fine morning before the party set out to the pond the minister of the treasury, Bandara Senevi called a quiet gathering. “Listen friends, the King’s Fool must already have concocted a plan to trick us all again. Today, we must outwit him at the first instance of arriving at the pond and throw him off.” All the ministers thought this will be great fun, for once, today they could finally be laughing back at Andare. They came up with the most creative plan to trick and shame the jester and all went excitedly about in preparation.
After much ado, the bathing party arrived at the pond and Bandara Senevi instantly put the plan in action. As everyone was shedding off their garments eagerly to get into the waters, Bandara Senevi announced a challenge. “My King, my friends, there’s a tale I’ve heard regarding our royal pond, that many moons ago an enchantment was placed upon it, where it tests the strength of brave men and if found worthy reveals to him a hidden egg from deep within its depths.” He continued, “I challenge you all to dive into the pond and return with an egg, the one who fears to do so, or is unable to find an egg will be here on forth called, “The Chicken.”
Andare was listening intently to the minister’s challenge, he knew every nook and cranny of the hill capital, knowing all sorts of wondrous tales was in his job description, yet he had never heard of such a tale about the royal pond. He watched Bandara Senevi state the bet of the challenge and he could see the minister’s eyes flitting from one courtier to the other, and he seemed to be trying very hard to stifle a chuckle. Andara knew some trick was about. However, what he didn’t know was that all of the King’s ministers had come prepared, each had already hidden an egg in their bathing trunks.
Andare watched in wonder as one by one the ministers boldly dived into the pond and came out beholding an egg. Each and every one; not a single miss, and soon it was coming up to be Andare’s turn. Everyone was watching him, without blinking an eye. On top of the mystery of it all, the jester’s brain was whizzing trying to figure out how to escape the shameful moniker of ‘The Chicken’ for the rest of his life. The sun was bearing upon his shoulders as he waded into the cool water. Andare feigned a slip, jumped back up and squirmed about like a fish, jesting, making the onlookers laugh but at the same time buying some time to concoct a plan.
Finally, it had to be done, he dived right into the depths of the pond, and as he well knew there were no eggs waiting for him, Andare swam back up empty handed. He could hear the snickering even before he came out of the water, but before it got out of hand quick witted Andare crowed like a rooster, “cock-a-doodle-doo,” and again, “cock-a-doodle-do.” He called to the King loudly, “Your Majesty, all your great ministers are hens, and I’m the only rooster.”
The King nearly collapses laughing, when he sees the faces of Bandara Senevi and the others. Smart Andare had outwitted his bravest and most wise advisors, again!
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