Thursday 26 January 2023

The Fools's Tale

It was me that felt like the fool after spending fourteen and a half hours reading this story.

This novel takes place in a small kingdom in Wales, close to the Norman/ English border, the year is 1198.  It is basically the story of three individuals and jealousy. There is a king, who is called Noble, his best friend Gwirion, who is the king’s jester, and the queen, Isabel. 

       The novel opens with an attack on Noble’s father, a Welsh king, returning with his soldiers from a meeting with the King Richard of England.  Although they have been granted “Safe Passage” by Richard to travel through the lands of Mortimer, a Norman Lord, Mortimer attacks, killing the soldiers and the king (Noble’s father).  During the attack, Gwirion, The jester, draws attention to himself, allowing Noble, the then Prince, to escape and hide.  Mortimer tortures Gwirion in an attempt to make him reveal where the Prince has gone.  Gwirion refuses, is tortured some more, and then left to die.

Years, pass the Prince (Noble) is King and Gwinion becomes the Noble’s closest companion and friend.  His job is to make wise cracks and pull pranks, most of them in bad taste, but Noble always enjoys them, no matter how disruptive they are.

Although Noble hates his powerful, neighbor, Lord Mortimer, who killed his father, he arranges to marry Mortimer’s niece, Isabel, in an attempt to create an alliance for his kingdom for protection.  Isabel, who is a Norman, is more educated, but she does her duty, moves to Noble’s kingdom and marries him.  Because she is a one of the Norman enemies, she is not very welcome in the kingdom by the people.

       Noble, who is a womanizer, continues to womanize, but treats Isabel decently, but without much love.  Isabel’s duty of course, is to produce a male heir for Noble.  

        Gwirion, dislikes Isabel immensely, not only because she is a Norman and a relative of Mortimer, but also because he is jealous of the time Noble spends with her.  Every chance Gwirion gets, he publicly belittles her in his performances, but Noble always thinks it is funny.  Isabel comes to hate Gwirion. 

Isabel becomes very bored with her life as Noble’s wife.  Although she is very capable and intelligent, she is not allowed to do anything but sew.  Noble continues to womanize with other women, which hurts Isabel, but she continues to try to play her role as queen and faithful companion to Noble.

Midway through the novel, Noble leaves the castle with his army to fight Mortimer, who is threatening his border.   While Nobel is away, his castle is captured by Llewelyn, another Welsh king who wants to take over Noble’s kingdom.  He imprisons Gwirion and Isabel, putting them in the same large room and despite their hatred for each other, in time, they slowly fall in love.  This sets up a kind of new dynamic among the three main characters.

When Noble defeats his attackers and returns to the castle, Gwirion and Isabel, full of love for each other, and guilt, have to try to stay away from each other and act as they always did.  When the affair is discovered, it is Noble that becomes jealous of Isabel, because Gwirion cares more for her than he cares for Noble. As you might expect it all comes to a very bad and bloody end.

There were several reasons why I disliked this novel.  I am never very good with gibberish and because most of the other characters had Welsh names that seemed like gibberish to me, often it left me unclear about who was who.  I found that I really didn’t care or feel much attachment to any of the characters in the novel, except Isabel.  Gwirion, the fool, was supposed to be humorous, but I found him a troublesome irritant, and if I was the king, I would have gotten rid of him long ago. 

    Lastly, The Fool’s Tale had a very bad and unsatisfying ending which left me mad for having invested so much time reading it.

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