Many of us have that one friend, usually male, with a lopsided grin and mischievous glint in his eyes that reflects a mind putting together devious and humiliating schemes for their poor victims. Oh merry prankster, rejoice, for April Fool’s Day is here! Now put the crafty mind to work and let’s all have a laugh!
Not that you needed inspiration, but just in case, we have dug through the realm of human imagination to find role-models for you. Here are the wiliest of the wily:
Kings don’t usually make good pranksters. After all, they have to, you know, look after their kingdom, while also upholding the honour of their people. Such things usually leave little time for playing the fool.
The Greeks, however, were apparently more accommodating, which is why a man called ‘Odysseus the cunning’ and known for his deceit and trickery remains one of Greece’s greatest cultural heroes. Whatever your opinion might be about him, but apart from remaining one of the most important literary characters of all time, he also happened to play the most famous (and cruel) joke in literary history. Yes, I’m talking about the Trojan Horse. You know, the story where the city of Troy pulled a big wooden horse inside their famous impenetrable walls, thinking of it as tribute by the repelled conquerors, unaware that inside the horse lay some of ancient Greece’s equivalent of the Marines. The marines opened the gates at night and let the rest of the army in, and Troy found it’s sleep rather rudely interrupted.
However, Odysseus had earned that moniker long before the Trojan horse incident. Another famous story has him feigning madness to avoid being held to his promise of participating in the Trojan War, something that reminded me of Tom Sawyer feigning to a ‘mortified toe’ to avoid going to school.
2) Tom Sawyer
Let’s not stretch the comparison too far though, after all, none of Tom’s pranks led to the plunder and destruction of an entire city. But then again, Odysseus was a king, and Tom was a boy.
Not just any boy though. As the 1995 movie Tom and Huck‘s slogan read- “A lot of boys got into trouble. These guys invented it’.
Reading Tom Sawyer is like taking a course in ‘Pranking 101: How to play the fool’. There are multiple lessons- How to humiliate your teacher, how to make everyone in the town believe you are dead, and of course, how to make other boys pay you to whitewash the fence for you!
3) Fred and George Weasley
While we’re on the subject of boys, let us now come to two boy wizards who put a smile on the face of an entire generation of readers that grew up with ‘Harry Potter.’ Fred and George Weasley had an unfair advantage over Tom Sawyer. After all, they could do magic and stuff, and had those wizard firecrackers and dung balls. Also, both their birthdays lie on the 1st of April (that’s not a coincidence, is it, J.K. Rowling?)
But Fred and George proved how seriously they took their jokes, when, after losing an ear, and almost dying, George said, “I feel saint-like. Holey. Get it Fred?” There are few characters in the history of literature who could have got away with saying that, and that’s why the Weasley twins are on our list.
Almost every culture has a mythological creature whose purpose is to spread mischief and trickery. The bard borrowed from English mythology to use Puck, a mischievous elf, in his famous play ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.
Puck took the purpose of April’s Fool’s Day, i.e, to make an ass out of someone, a little too literally, as he actually turned Nick Bottom into a donkey. Well, part of him at least.
A key character in one of history’s iconic comedies, Puck has been making audiences and readers laugh for centuries.
Do me a favour; send me some subject, comical or not, but an authentically Russian anecdote. My hand is itching to write a comedy… Give me a subject and I’ll knock off a comedy in five acts — I promise, funnier than hell. For God’s sake, do it. My mind and stomach are both famished.
—Letter from Gogol to Pushkin, October 7, 1835
Pushkin, duly obliged him, telling him about an anecdote when he was once mistaken for an Inspector General, and Gogol stayed true to his promise and wrote a play that history has definitely judged to be ‘funnier than hell.’ The major element in that story was the irresponsible, unscrupulous Khlestakov, who after suspecting that the entire town has mistaken him for a high personage, takes full advantage of the fact, and a whole town is ‘made an ass of’, though in this case, not literally.
6) Eric Cartman
When Eric Cartman walks through the realm of pranksters, everyone else just puts their head down and looks away uncomfortably. This third/fourth-grade kid from the small town of South park, Colorado, shares the youthful immaturity and mischievousness of his peers, but does not seem to know that something like a moral compass even exists. After all, this is a kid who knowingly gave another kid AIDS (no, they did not have sex), who wanted to exterminate all Jews, and who can forget, (warning-graphic words) actually made a tenth grader eat his own parents. Yes, you read that right. As Kyle said after that, “I think it might be best for us not to piss Cartman off again. Ever.”
7) James Joyce
Joyce was a real person yes, and one of the greatest writers ever, at that. But he deserves inclusion in this list, because of a book called ‘Finnegan’s Wake’. While some people consider it to be a great work of art, many consider it to the most colossal leg pull in literary history, including the author of this piece, although he is much relieved that others who share this point of view include Vladmir Nobokov and D.H. Lawrence.
Have a great April Fool’s Day. Keep those pranks and tricks going!