Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore.
FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, CLICK HERE
PART TWENTY-SIX: THE FOOL KILLER (1918) – Last time around I posted plenty of quotes from Mak’s incarnation of the Fool Killer, quotes that would upset both the political left AND the political right here in the 21st Century. FOR THOSE QUOTES CLICK HERE
This time I’ll look at the uniquely stylized America that Mak depicted his Fool Killer traveling through, delivering poetry recitations and lectures plus sharing recipes during down time between slaying fools. Mak’s America seems like a Frank Baum-influenced alternate reality filled with beautiful scenery but marred by politicized religion plus the tyranny of callous tycoons and the elected officials they have in their pockets.
The Fool Killer is followed on his meanderings around the country following the harsh winter of 1916 into 1917 and up through late 1917. Our title figure takes on quasi-chivalric airs and his escapades an urbanized Faerie Queen feel. He spouts original poetry at the drop of a hat but retains the jarring element of violent judgmentalism that afflicts every incarnation of the Fool Killer.
The Klarenc Wade Mak version of the figure seems to regard his mission in a Darwinian way, like he’s a natural force cleansing the land of fools the way that harsh, unforgiving nature inevitably weeds out those too weak to survive. As ever, the delusions of a serial killer taint the high-minded objectives that the Fool Killer pays lip service to.
Not that our folk figure’s targets don’t deserve to be opposed. This Fool Killer battles the abomination of Child Labor, the profit-mongers who sponsor it AND the Judges who perpetuate it through their decisions striking down attempts to eliminate the ugly practice.
He also champions women’s suffrage and fights for the working class against both the bloated rich pigs who exploit them AND the sleazy Union Leaders who sell out the workers in exchange for privileges that only management can hand out.
Here’s a fuller examination of this Fool Killer’s adventures as he wanders Mak’s Surreal States of America:
*** Geographically, this book is set mostly in Missouri, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska.
*** He encounters fish ice-skating on the under-side of the ice-choked rivers during the harsh winter of ’16 into ’17.
*** With the arrival of Spring the Fool Killer spouts volumes of verse glorifying nature taking back the land from the dead of winter.
*** The folk figure mentions using side-winding “smart” bullets tipped with cyanide and rattlesnake venom.
*** Our title character takes on the atrocity of Child Labor in a big way.
*** The Fool Killer calls for “the hardest and swiftest punch” against Food Speculators, whom he blamed for patches of starvation in America.
*** He encounters an extravagantly accommodating hotel in western Nebraska that doesn’t even charge its customers. No sinister catch, it’s just part of the surreal nature of Mak’s America, a homespun Twilight Zone.
*** The Fool Killer preys on people shooting buffalo just for the hell of it on the Great Plains.
*** In a quasi-Post Apocalyptic sequence our “hero” comes across the devastation wrought on the Nemeha River by industrialization.
*** A dinosaur tooth recently discovered was so huge the Fool Killer joked that it proved dinosaurs were ancestors of ex-President Theodore Roosevelt.
*** The Fool Killer gleefully recounted the dispatching to Hell of traveling salesmen who lied about being single just so they could seduce innocent young women on their sales route.
*** Like Charles Napoleon Bonaparte Evans’ Fool Killer in the 1800s this version of the character attacks men beating their wives and children.
*** On a lighter note the folk figure took on merchants who slipped gravel in with their salted peanuts to make the packages weigh more without really containing the advertised amount of peanuts.
*** When not walking, our title character rode the Frisco Railroad (the St Louis to San Francisco railroad) around the country.
*** Our wandering vigilante is at his busiest in Oklahoma, which for some reason he feels is the cesspool of the country. He calls it “the victim of the Profit System and the Democrat Party.” In the Sooner State the Fool Killer faces:
… gougers and grifters
… evangelistic religious fanatics that the Fool Killer describes as “600 percent Christians”
… land-grabbers and Highway Robbers
… gamblers and casino owners and loan sharks
… white-slavers, train robbers and bank robbers
… white-collar criminals ripping off the Indians on reservations
… pro-German sympathizers (America had entered World War One in April)
*** Mak’s Fool Killer feels that Oklahoma is in danger of collapsing into “a Primeval Jungle.” Unable to exterminate an entire state, in the end our title character advocates a return to Kansas City, Missouri, the favorite haunt of this Fool Killer, just as North Carolina was for the 1850s-1880s incarnation.
I WILL EXAMINE MORE FOOL KILLER LORE SOON. KEEP CHECKING BACK FOR UPDATES.
FOR MY LOOK AT JOE MAGARAC, THE STEEL MILL VERSION OF JOHN HENRY AND PAUL BUNYAN, CLICK HERE
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