April Fools’ Day: that first day of April when numerous people, from the smallest kindergartner to the largest corporations, try to put one over on each other. Today, pranks include Swiss farmers announcing a record “spaghetti crop,” Taco Bell buying Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell and renaming it the “Taco Liberty Bell,” and Burger King’s “left handed Whopper” making its way onto the menu.
You may be surprised, however, to discover that April Fools’ Day has a long and historic past. One popular theory states that its roots could very well go back as far as 1582 when France switched calendars. Those who did not realize the new year had changed to January 1st, and who continued to celebrate at the end of March/beginning of April, became the victims of hoaxes and pranks. The befuddled revelers got a paper fish placed on their backs and were referred to as “poisson d’avril” (April fish) which signified gullibility.
So, in honor of this fun, albeit confusing “holiday,” I give you four (to coincide with the month’s number, of course) literary legends of the prank.
The Weasley Twins – J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. Fred and George Weasley get high marks as jokesters at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. With aging potions gone wrong, pinching the Marauder’s Map, and identity switching just to confuse their poor mother Molly, the fiery headed brothers never fail to delight us with their shenanigans. Eventually they take their tricks outside the classroom with their very own novelty joke shop. The name? “Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes”—we love a good alliteration!
Chip “The Colonel” Martin – John Green’s Looking for Alaska. At another boarding school thousand of miles away, Chip “The Colonel” Martin brings his friends along on his prank parade while deceiving the strict headmaster, “The Eagle.” Providing some much needed levity in a rather heavy novel, “The Colonel” spends his time trying to buck the school’s rigid rules. Defying “The Eagle” by spending a night in the woods just to get a school’s bully to dye his own hair blue? Now that is commitment.
Puck – William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream. Jester, fairy, sprite—whatever name you choose to call him, William Shakespeare’s Puck from A Midsummer’s Night Dream is the quintessential prankster. On a mission to collect a love potion flower, Puck creates chaos for those around him by bewitching the wrong lovers, and turning Bottom’s head into an ass. While his antics do vex those around him, he eventually rights his wrongs, and Shakespeare’s play ends on a happy note (for a change).
Loki – Norse Mythology. Without a doubt our most powerful and ambiguous trickster on the list, Loki from Norse mythology, has the power to wreak havoc in some serious ways. Nihilistic and playful, he can change shape, and sex, which he often used to trick his fellow gods. Having been known to act without regard for others, Loki masterminds the death of beloved god, Baldr, inciting the gods to tie him to a rock while a serpent drips venom on him. Far worse than being charged with underage magic or detention! Loki’s power to beguile and confuse astounds most scholars who debate the reason for his existence at all.
Now that you have some literary inspiration, go pay tribute to these tricksters by planning to wreak a little (safe) havoc of your own this upcoming April Fools’ Day!