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In the Kingdom of Fools Summary in English by A. K. Ramanujan
In the Kingdom of Fools by A. K. Ramanujan About the Author
Attipate Krishnaswami Ramanujan was a bilingual writer, who wrote in English and Kannada. A.K. Ramanujan was bom in Mysore in 1929. He graduated from the University of Mysore. He was awarded the Fulbright Scholarship and completed his PhD in Linguistics from Indiana University, USA. Ramanujan taught at many colleges in South India, mainly in Belgaum. Later on, he was appointed at the University of Chicago. He also taught at Harvard University, University of Wisconsin, University of California, University of Michigan and Carleton College. He was a poet, scholar, playwright, translator, essayist and folklorist.
His research was spread across English, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada. Ramanujan’s works of translation gained him international popularity. Some of his most popular translated works include Speaking of Siva, Hymns for the Drowning, Folktales from India, and Poems of Love and War, His poems are distinguished by their use of sophisticated language and original style. Ramanujan was awarded the Padma Shri for his contribution to Indian literature.
|Author Name||A. K. Ramanujan|
|Born||16 March 1929, Mysuru|
|Died||13 July 1993, Chicago, Illinois, United States|
|Full name||Attipate Krishnaswami Ramanujan|
|Awards||Padma Shri, MacArthur Fellowship, Sahitya Akademi Award for English Writers|
In the Kingdom of Fools Summary in English
This story is about the Kingdom of Fools. In this kingdom, both the king and the minister are idiots. In order to be different from other kingdoms, they decide to change night into day and day into night. They order the people to work all through the night and sleep at sunrise. As not following this rule would result in punishment, the people do as they are told, much to the delight of the king and the minister. One day, a guru and his disciple arrive in the city, only to find that no one is outside; everyone, including the animals, is asleep. Once evening descends, they see the townspeople go up and about their business. The guru and disciple go to a grocery store and find that everything costs the same: a ‘duddu.’ They are very happy because they can buy anything for just a rupee.
Soon, the guru realises that this is a kingdom of fools and feels that it is not wise for them to stay there. However, the disciple is reluctant to leave because food is very cheaply available there. The guru warns him that as this is a kingdom of fools, they do not know what may happen next. When the disciple does not listen, the guru decides to leave. The disciple stays behind and eats to his heart’s content everyday. Eventually, he becomes obese.
One day, a thief breaks into a merchant’s house by making a hole in the wall of the house. After stealing, he attempts to escape through the same hole, but the wall collapses on him and he dies. The thief s brother complains to the king; he says that his brother’s death is the merchant’s fault and the latter should be made to compensate for the family’s loss. The king promises to deliver justice and summons the merchant. When the merchant agrees that the thief had broken into his house and had the wall collapse on him, the king declares that the merchant has pleaded guilty for the murder of the thief. The merchant then says that the fault lies with the person who built the wall poorly. The merchant says that the bricklayer who built the wall years ago is now an old man. The king then summons the bricklayer.
When the bricklayer admits that he had built the wall, the king announces that he must be punished. The bricklayer says that he knows the wall had not been built properly but it was not his fault: at that time, he was distracted by a beautiful dancing girl who was walking up and down the nearby street, with her anklets jingling all day. He says it is the girl who is to blame.
The king agrees to summon the dancing girl. The dancing girl, who has now grown old, comes to the court trembling with fear. The king asks her if she had walked up and down the street years ago, when the bricklayer was building the wall. When she admits that she had, the king accuses her of murdering the thief. The woman recalls that the reason she had been walking up and down the street that day was because she had given some gold to a lazy goldsmith who kept delaying the work. As such, she had had to walk to his house several times to get her jewellery. Thus, she says, the fault lies with the goldsmith. The king now summons the goldsmith.
The goldsmith, in turn, has his own story to tell. He says that the reason he gave the dancing girl so many excuses is because he was busy working on a rich merchant’s order. The merchant had a wedding coming up and was very impatient. Upon further inquiry, it turns out that the merchant the goldsmith had spoken of is the same merchant whose wall had collapsed upon the thief. The merchant is summoned again. However, he claims he is innocent because it was his late father who had ordered the jewellery.
After consulting his minister, the king announces that since the actual culprit is dead, someone must be punished in his place. As his son has inherited his riches from his father, he has inherited his father’s sins as well. Thus, he must die. The king orders his servants to build a new stake for the merchant’s execution. While the servants are sharpening the stake, it occurs to the minister that the merchant is too thin to be executed this way. The king is worried as well.
They decide on a simple solution: they must find a man fat enough to fit the stake. They immediately send the servants to look for such a man. The servants find that the fat disciple fits the criteria. As they take him to the place of execution, the disciple remembers his guru’s warning. He silently prays to his guru, hoping that he hears his prayer from wherever he is. The guru has magic powers and is able to see the past, present and the future. He sees everything in a vision and arrives to save his disciple’s life.
The guru whispers something to the disciple and then goes to meet the king. He asks the king to tell who is wiser between a guru and his disciple. The king replies that the guru is wiser. The guru then asks to be put to death first; his disciple should be killed at the stake after him. Hearing this, the disciple understands the trick and demands to be the first one to die. The guru and disciple begin to quarrel. The king is puzzled and asks the guru why he wants to be killed. The guru says he will answer the question if the king promises to kill him first. When the king agrees, the guru tells him that they want to die because they have never been to a kingdom such as this or seen such a king. He says that whoever dies at the new stake first, will be reborn as the king of this kingdom; and the one who is killed second, will be bom as the minister.
The king is troubled because he does not want to lose his kingdom even in the next life. So he postpones the execution and consults his minister. They decide to go on the stake themselves so they can be reborn as king and minister. The king tells the executioners that.the criminals would be sent to them at night. They should first execute the person who arrives first, and then the second man.
That night, the king and minister secretly go to the prison and release the gum and the disciple. They then disguise themselves as the gum and disciple. Then they are taken to the stake and executed. When the bodies are taken to be thrown to the crows and vultures, the people recognise the bodies to be that of the king and the minister. All night the people mourn and discuss the future of the kingdom. Just as the gum and disciple are about to leave the city, some people find them and beg them to be their new king and their minister. The two agree to mle the kingdom but on the condition that they would change all the old laws.
From then on, day becomes day and night becomes night; nothing is available for a duddu. The kingdom becomes like any other place.
In the Kingdom of Fools Title
The story relates events that take place in a kingdom inhabited by fools. It presents a country where fools run the kingdom, and relates all the foolish and illogical things they do and say, and how their foolishness affects innocent people. It also shows how a wise man is able to save his disciple from the dangerously foolish King and minister. Thus, the title perfectly captures the essence of the story.
In the Kingdom of Fools Setting
The story is set in a fictitious kingdom in the medieval times when kings ruled over the country.
In the Kingdom of Fools Theme
The story reveals the dangers of living among fools, and emphasises that only wise people can manage to survive living among them. Further, foolishness leads to ruin, while wisdom can help a person find their way even in darkest times.
In the Kingdom of Fools Message
pleasant their life may seem. Wisdom lies in keeping a safe distance from such people, because one can’t reason or use logical arguments with them. Therefore one should not be greedy or lazy, and always choose the company of wise people rather than of fools.
In the Kingdom of Fools Characters
The Guru: He was a wise man who knew the ways of the world and warned his disciple against living in a country which was being run by a foolish King and an equally foolish minister. His warning proved to be correct when his disciple was on the verge of being executed, not because he had committed a crime, but because he was fat enough to fir the stake. The guru was also deeply connected with his disciple. This is evident when even though the disciple disobeyed him by refusing to leave the country, the guru still comes back to answer the disciple’s prayers. He was an illuminated soul who could divine his disciple’s problem even though he was at a considerable distance from him. He was very intelligent, and fooled the King and his minister into taking their own lives instead of wrongly executing innocent people. Ultimately, the people of the kingdom asked him and his disciple to run the country.
The Disciple: He was a lover of food. He was so happy to find a place where everything cost only a single duddu, that he stayed back in the kingdom against his guru’s wishes. However, he realised his guru’s greatness and prayed to him to release him from his problem when the King wanted to execute him. He immediately understood the trick that his guru was playing to fool the King, and played along with him. In the end, he learnt his lesson and was made the minister, helping his guru run the kingdom the right way.
The King: He was a fool who was very unpredictable. He ruled his kingdom according to his whims and fancies, without any logical reasoning or sense. He decided that things would function his way in the kingdom, and established a system whereby the people worked through the night and slept through the day. Also, everything in his kingdom sold for a single duddu, whether a measure of rice or a bunch of bananas. His sense of justice was very arbitrary, as he ordered the execution of the disciple just because he was fat enough to fit the stake. Further, in the case of the thief who died, he tried the merchant whose house had been broken into, and accepted the most ridiculous justifications from the brick-layer, dancing girl and goldsmith about their actions. Finally, he proves to be naive and power-hungry, as he chooses to die in place of the guru and disciple, because he believed their story that the first person to die at the stake would return as the king.
The Minister: He was as foolish as his master. He helped and supported him in implementing his foolish schemes and instead of guiding him with logic and foresight, he agreed with all the King’s thoughtless whims.
He was the person who unwittingly saved the merchant’s life by declaring that he was too thin for the stake. Ultimately, he lost his life because he did not have the intelligence to realise that the guru and disciple were fooling them to save their own lives.
In the Kingdom of Fools Summary Questions and Answers
What are the two strange things the guru and his disciple find in the kingdom of fools?
Firstly, they find that the whole town, including the animals, slept by day and stayed awake through the night running their businesses. Secondly, everything costs the same, whether it was a measure of rice or a bunch of bananas—they all cost a duddu.
Why was the kingdom called the Kingdom of Fools?
It was called so because the Kind and the minister were idiots. They decided to change night into day and day into night, and ordered everyone to wake at night to till their fields, and sleep during the day.
Why did the people follow the orders of the foolish King?
They were forced to do so because they knew that if they disobeyed his orders, they would be punished with death.
What astonished the guru and disciple at the grocer’s shop?
They were astonished that everything at the shop whether a measure of rice or a bunch of bananas cost the same, i.e., a duddu.
Compare and contrast the feelings of the guru and the disciple about the kingdom they found themselves in.
The guru felt that it would not be a great idea to stay in the kingdom, and they should leave the place. On the -other hand, the disciple refused to leave, because he felt that everything was so cheap and good, that he could eat to his heart’s content.
Why did the guru leave the disciple and go away from the Kingdom of Fools?
Since the disciple refused to listen to his guru’s wisdom and insisted on staying there, the guru gave up and left.
What made the disciple grow fat?
The disciple ate his fill of bananas, ghee, rice, and wheat, which cost only one duddu. As a result, he grew fatter and fatter.
Why does the writer say that ‘one bright day a thief broke into a rich merchant’s house’? What is strange about this statement?
The strange thing is that the theft took place during the daylight hours. In any other place, theft would typically take place during the dark of night. However, the people in the Kingdom of Fools slept during the day and woke at night.
Why did the thief s brother run to the King?
He ran to the King to complain about the fact that his brother had been killed because the wall of the house he had gone to rob had fallen on him.
Do you think the plea made by the thief s brother was strange? Give reasons for your answer.
Yes, it was strange, because instead of hiding the fact that his brother was a thief, and had died trying to rob the merchant’s house, he went to the King without any fear and demanded justice.