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Fairytale Tarot: The Fool

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Fairytale Tarot: The Fool


Thoughts on “The Fool”

Story: “The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat”

The story for this card introduces us to Hans, a youngest son hoping to inherit his father’s mill by bringing back the best horse. Hans is completely dismissed by his older brothers who don’t look upon him as any sort of competition. Not only does Hans bring back the best horse, he marries a princess as well and secures a bright and blessed future.

The card shows Hans peering down at the town below from a grassy cliff. He is dressed in a red shirt and cap with a green tunic, blue pants, yellow leggings, and practical brown shoes. A travel sack hangs over his right shoulder. His shirt sleeves are rolled up, showing his eagerness and readiness to plunge into his work. A tabby cat (who we find out is really a princess) is poised up on her hind legs at his feet. The sky is a pale blue and is littered with friendly, fluffy clouds. Upon closer inspection of the card, I see that Hans is actually looking more toward the sky itself, rather than at the town below. The vantage point is from behind Hans which makes the observer also look forward. It gives the card a “stepping out, moving forward” kind of feeling.

Hans has an easygoing posture. He does not find his travel bag to be a burden; he carries it easily. In the story, Hans’ successes are completely illogical. He remains cheerful throughout and his success is far more a result of good luck than it is any sort of driving personal ambition.

In the seven years that Hans works for the tabby cat he does complete, without question, the tasks that she assigns him. The Fool’s lack of artifice and his sheer adaptability are what bring him such good fortune.

The Fool energy is lack of pretension. It’s a basic trust that everything will work out for the best. Hans does not respond to the criticism of his elder brothers so there is also an aspect of the Fool that shows remarkable self-efficacy for one so innocent. Every card has a positive and negative side. Sometimes the good-natured fool takes a false step and takes a long fall. But his magic is in the fact that the fool never shuns the journey. Without him, that proverbial “leap of faith” would not exist. How many projects would never be begun! How many inventions would never be contemplated! Even in the fool’s less wiser moments we have to admire his unclouded joy in the promise that the world holds for him.
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What strikes me in these stories (for there are many similar ones) is that the youngest brother does not go out to proove himself or to make his fortune by any means necessary.
Not a go-getter or someone who insists on rising to glory over those who have pushed him down before.

He's more of a 'take what life gives and do my best' kind of person who may or may not get lucky in the company he chooses.
A bit of a dunce at times, but with a kind heart and a trusting eye that seems to defuse the dangers that present themselves and give him an advantage out of kindness and gentleness.

Invariably, someone else brings the fool to glory because he is such a good companion, though the stories also say that he later becomes a wise and kind ruler so there's the change that goes through the major arcana.

The fool (while illustrated by the whole story) is really just that first step - the leap of faith.
Following the arrow, going to where the white feather fell, taking what is given... And the rest of the story is in the following cards as they are dealt.
If good, the fool will learn, grow and change into someone wonderful.
If bad, the fool may find himself sitting in a field with no food, water or companions, abandoned by the fates for lack of trying or taken in by those who will take advantage of him.


The happy ending to the story is really not in the card.
It comes later - if all goes well.
The moment in the card is when he inspite of the opinions of others goes on to follow the adventure presented to him. Wisely or not is for what comes after to decide...
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This discussion makes me think about the Russian fairy tales, where the hero very often is a lazy and stupid boy named Ivan, who spends his days resting on the oven. He enters a competition with his brothers, or sometimes some other trial befalls him, is scorned, but is helped, often by a princess named Vassilisa the Wise, and wins her and riches too.

His luck is good, and that, and his kind heart makes his success possible.

I think The Millers´s Boy is a very similar story. He even insults the little cat by refusing to dance with her, still she helps him.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by genna
This discussion makes me think about the Russian fairy tales, where the hero very often is a lazy and stupid boy named Ivan, who spends his days resting on the oven.
Yes, the message of the fool - or third child (from time to time it's a girl) in fairytales is an odd one. On the one hand it says that a good heart and a willingness to help others will draw good opportunities and good help to you - but on the other, in some tales it seems to say that simply lazing about and doing nothing is absolutely fine, you'll get everything you need by luck.

If you apply those ideas to the tarot Fool, then it can alter our way of seeing the card.
It says that being "foolish" is partly about maintaining an innocent and trusting attitude to others - and being kind when you won't get anything in return. We can all understand and relate to that. But it also seems to tell us that we can "drop out" from society and all will still be well. The latter reminds me of what Jesus said "consider the lilies of the field, they toil not, neither do they spin." It's a much odder and more difficult message by modern day standards.
By choosing the Poor Miller's Boy and the Little Cat for the Fool in the deck, we were going more for the first, easier meaning. But you're absolutely right, the "Ivan" type fool is still there lurking in the background, challenging what we believe about the need to plan, work hard and "get on".
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I think of the Fool more as the first step. Not necessarily in a lifetime journey, although that is another way to look at it. When I embark on a new
adventure, job, friendship, love, etc. I want to see it first through the eyes of the Fool -- being open to possibilities. That doesn't mean that I stay there. As I learn and experience more of whatever it is, my point of view usually changes, at least a bit. I let the experience teach me what I need to know, and hope to stay open to being the Fool again in another adventure.

I like this fairy tale very much. The boy is open for anything, is agreeable, does what he is told (once he figures out who is in charge) and trusts in the outcome. He is willing to leave without the horse, because even after seven years, he has enough trust left to believe that it will arrive in three days. And it does!
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I absolutely agree with you baba-prague, and you Cocobird55. I understand now about the two types of fool and that The Poor Millers´Boy is no "Ivan". He works hard for the little cat. I like this story very much too.
It was fun and interesting to discuss the Russian tales. Thank you.
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It's a delicate balance, deciding on what to work for.

The older brothers of the story have their goal clear in mind and avidly set up a strategy for how to find the perfect partner to fit the demands of their father.
While the younger one, or indeed Ivan, goes out knowing the task but not laying out a plan, but rather following whatever lead he gets from the world around him. Luckily the nudges are pretty severe so he can't miss them.
Or is it that he is open to noticing them while those who are more goal-oriented are too distracted by their set goals to see what the world might have to tell them?
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I believe the last is true. He is open and humble enough to listen to for example a swan (who might be the mighty princess in disguise), or spare some foxcubs because he is asked to (and later win the fox´s cunning aid). The goal-oriented and proud brothers wold never stoop to listen to birds or foxes...or little cats.
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When the boy goes to the house of cats he spends 7 years there, but if feels like only six months to him. I wonder if it was more like a year as cats age about 7 years for everyone of our 'people' years. 7 seems like a magic number.

This Fool is trusting that all will work out just as the little cat says it will. A very willing, very patient soul, indeed. He was willing to give up control and listen to the cat and perform the tasks required.

By accepting each day and each task as it was presented, this Fool was able to live 'in the moment' with little thought as to what the future holds; he had faith and put his trust in the little cat. Simple, elegant.

It is not often that I can have faith, trust, and patience (especially all at once!) as I like being in charge of me and I like to know what lies ahead; I also find it hard to wait. And of course, if I do wait, I don't waste time as I can keep busy with my worries! So, I will try to be a bit more like this Fool...

~Nimbus
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On the 7 year thing... 7 is the number of years you get stuck in a fairyworld, typically, as the myths go... The book for this deck mentions that a few times, so I consider it significant to the cards and magical for that sense. So, maybe it means the cat was a Fairy of some sort.
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