Yesterday I got to have fun with my “Fools of Chlem” show at the Jericho Library in front of a very appreciative audience. I got to tell close to an hour of traditional and ORIGINAL (I wrote ’em) stories about the wonderful town of Chelm and it’s citizens…and a very special someone who played a big part in making the town happen at all.
Chelm follows a particular sub-genre of Storytelling (in Humor) of foolish people/towns. In England, there is Gotham. Germany has Baden (and others). Juan Bobo is from Puerto Rico. Chelm is actually a town in Poland, but it became part of Jewish folklore. Many authors have written about Chelm: Isaac Bashevis Singer; Steve Sanfield; Solomon Simon; Peninnah Schram; etc. There are still many who are writing new tales, or new variations of the traditional stories, such as Mark Binder. Many of these stories find their way into the children section of books; many others are definitely for the adults.
In the Index of Aarne & Thompsen the numbskull stories are found from AT1200 to AT 1349. These are the stories of a special place, or a village, where everyone is a numbskull.
The same stories can be found all over the world, and they can date back a very very long time. There are stories from the Arabic world from the 13th century, stories from ancient history, even stories from China found in the Tripitaka dated to 500 B.C. In Finland are the two villages of Hölmölä and Bemböle. But also the isle of Kökar from the Åland islands. In Sweden the numbskulls are called “Tälje tokar,” the fools from Tälje In Denmark they live in the village of Mols, and are called molboer. In Norway there is not a particular village of fools in the oral tradition. In Iceland the stories are sometimes told about the brothers from Bakka village. Germany has the people of Schildburg.
In the Aarne-Thompsen index again, there is a collection of anecdotes and humorous stories found by the numbers AT1350 to AT 1874. And there are the wise fools or tricksters. There are the stories with people mentioned by their real names. Or stories about a real, existing village.
I did get a chance to video tape my show, and downloaded it, but did not have a chance to edit it yet. For your hearing pleasure (yes, hearing: please excuse the quality of the taping of this), I present two short stories of Chelm:
Hope you enjoy these. I’ll post sections of my full show soon. In the meantime…Happy April Fools Day (and no, the above is not an April Fools joke).