The classic Sri Lankan folk tale of Andare, the beloved court jester
At first, she stayed in her shell, pretending her English wasn't that good, letting her husband do all the talking. But after a week or so, there was no denying it: she liked having us around (the youngest one putting on his charm full blast of course) and her English was in fact pretty decent; the more we spoke, the better it got. After a while longer I worked up the courage to ask her for a children's story, something every child in Sri Lanka hears when they are young. At first, she came up with universally known fables such as The Tortoise and the Hare. Although she was still very shy, she seemed to see this as an opportunity to practise her English and she promised a new story every day. During the day we'd see her sit somewhere with a notebook and a dictionary, preparing for the night. After dinner the boys would retreat to our room and she and I would sit across one another at a table, her reading the story to me, me typing it up, after which I had to read it to the children; she couldn't bare to be there when they heard it, afraid they wouldn't like it enough.
I had hoped for a typical Sri Lankan story and after a few days she seemed to catch my drift, she proudly announced: tonight I will tell you about Andare, have you heard of him? I hadn't and was curious what she'd have in store for us.
That evening it was pouring down from the heavens above Tangalle. We sat down, only a candle to light the darkness between us, her soft voice hardly audible over the clatter on the roof. Here's the classic Sri Lankan folk tale of Andare the beloved court jester, courtesy of Harshi of the Siësta Guesthouse:
The beautiful island called Sri Lanka, Pearl of the Indian Ocean, has a great history and rich culture. There have been many different time periods, in which the country was ruled by different kings. This is an ancient story, the legend of a so called Sri Lankan truth story.
Once upon a time, more than 200 years ago, in a land far, far away, there lived a king.
This king is very strong, he is a fat man and an incredibly powerful ruler. He has a thick, black moustache and a long beard and he wears the most colourful clothes, his big belly protruding through his beaded mantle.
His palace contains a huge conference hall, in which the elaborate government holds its meetings.
This king is a lover of life, a true hedonist, a very happy man. He likes his palace filled with laughter, talk, drama and entertainment, every day.
In his court, there came a comedian, his name is Andare. He is a very short, thin man. After a few performances the king introduces him to all people who visit him, as his jester and jokeman. However, Andare soon gathers a lot of useful knowledge and he is particularly deceitful. Every day he comes into the conference hall to the government and tells a funny story and keeps the king smiling every time.
Every year the provence where the palace is situated holds a special event. This year the occasion is a paddy field event. The challenge is to select the best farmer. However, in this provence every farmer is ready for this challenge; they all are determined to win.
One day, one farmer comes to the castle and tells the king, in a very humble tone of voice: "please, excuse me, oh mighty ruler, your Highness, I have a problem: my paddy field land, in the middle, there lies a big stone. I can't grow paddy and participate in the event. Please my king, can you help me?" He pleads this request time and again to the king. After some contemplation, the king instructs one of his very strong bodyguards: "go to this farmer's place and remove that stone". Embarrassed, the bodyguard returns: he could not manage replacing this rock. Days pass by, but it turns out no man can move that stone, everybody fails. One day Andare comes in and says: "oh, it is a simple job, I can do it. But I have a condition. You will have to hold a government meeting, I will make my demand known there." The ministers are angry with him, stating that he is a cocky man who has no right to demand anything. Despite their objections, they hold a meeting, inviting Andare in. Here, Andare unfolds his conditions: he desires to receive, for one month, nutrisiouness foods, drinks and generally being able to live a comfortable life; the same wealthy lifestyle as the king is leading. He proclaims: "I want to develop my body and mind. I want to become a strong and powerful man." The king thinks about the poor farmer and about his reputation of being a king that cares about his people and one that finds solutions, and he and every minister agree and facilitate this demand, and give him everything he has asked for.
So Andare lives like a king for one month. One day he tells his king: "my job is only to move the stone, right?" "Yes", the king replies, "this is what needs to be done".
The day is coming; many, many people come to look at this work, they expect superman action. Andare is striding to the middle of the land, music and drums play like a parade, many people stand beside the field and clap their hands to the beat of the drums. People from all surrounding villages and the king and ministers have come to witness this miraculous deed.
Andare is very proud of himself, you can see him smiling with contentment. When everyone is silent, he declares: "I want four strong men." The king supplies four strong men. Andare tells the four strong men: "Please move the stone to another place. After this, my job is finished." He tells this to everybody, facing everybody in sight, laughing and shouting.
Andare's job is to make people smile and tell a good, funny story. Now he created yet another story to tell, one that gives him great pleasure to share.