This week has been even more distressing than usual. And it’s been a pretty distressing year. Frequent terrorist attacks, a strange rise in nationalism, and the loss of any sort of civility in public and private discourse. And so much dourness. So much overwhelming seriousness.
And yet, considering the disasters of past centuries, we seem to be living in a pretty good time. Russians especially know this, having experienced civil wars, bloody tyrants, and repeated attempts at extermination by foreign powers. So, you might expect the quintessential hero of Russian fairy tales to be a serious-minded warrior who seeks to right injustices with the power of his righteousness and his sword.
Nope. The quintessential hero of Russian fairy tales is Ivan the Idiot.
And there’s something interesting about this. Seeing the chaos of the world, the Russian response is to ridicule it all. To stress the grotesque. To pull the rug out from the wise of this world. After all, the quintessential Russian saint is the fool for Christ.
And you know what? It works. There’s nothing like a good joke to bring together two people having an argument. There’s nothing better than a grotesque caricature to shock people back into a sense of perspective. And there’s no saint like a fool for Christ to remind us of our own sinfulness, not the sinfulness of others.
So today, as an antidote to the ugliness of what’s going on around us, here’s everything you need to know about Ivan the Idiot.
He’s a fool. He’s a lazybones. He’s filthy. So why is Ivan the Idiot always the winner in the end of the fairy tale? Why does everyone help him get what he needs? Why does the beautiful princess fall in love with him? (Click here to read more.)