Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Joyful Display -- The Clown of God by Tomie dePaola

 The Clown of God
by Tomie dePaola

The Clown of God is one of my all time favorite books. No matter how often I look at the illustrations, or read the story aloud, it never ceases to deeply move me. This llustrations are classic Tomie de Paola. Again you can see his influence of liturgical and classical art.

In the beginning, Tomie includes the note on the origins of the story:
The French legend of the little juggler who offers the gift of his talent and the miracle that occurs is well known. The version I loved as a child was the one told by the master storyteller Anatole France. In the oral tradition, storytellers through the centuries have told and retold tales, changing them often to fit their own lives and mores. Following this tradition, I have lovingly retold this ancient legend, shaping it to my own life and experience, and called it by its oldest known title.

The story begins long ago in Sorrento, Italy with a young beggar orphan. He can juggle and does so to earn money and lodging from the fruit vendor.

One day a traveling group of players comes through town and Giovanni (the orphan) is amazed and asks to join them on their travels, using his juggling talents to perform.

Giovanni joins the show and soon is performing on the stage to enraptured audiences.

As the story continues Giovanni become famous and performs around the country,
even for royalty.
One day he encounters two Little Brothers who he shares his food with.
They tell him they travel through out the land to spread the joy of God.
They tell Giovanni that he gives glory to God
by giving happiness through his performances
to his audiences. He laughs at this and says, "if you say so".
He travels for years continuing to provide joy and happiness to his audiences.

Over the years he would continue to perform but people would turn away and say, "It's only the old clown who juggles things. We've all seen him before".
As he grew older, the crowd only laughed and mocked him.
Giovanni decided to put away his costume and quit juggling forever.
He became a ragged beggar, just as he had as a child.

He knew it was time to go "home" and returns to Sorrento. He arrives on a winter night and sees the monastery church of the Little Brothers. He sneaks inside to sleep. He is awoken to the church lit with candlelight and filled with people singing, "Gloria, Gloria!" The service is the procession of the gifts to the Holy Child.
He too wants to give a gift to the Holy Child, but all that he has is his gift of performance.

The ending is awe inspiring and grips my heart. You'll have to read the book to see what happens next. I don't want to spoil it for anyone.
It is a wonderful book, haunting and profound.
Please, read this book!
Here is a link to Tomie dePaola's blog where he discusses this book and the legend.

Tomie's Blog

No comments:

Post a Comment