The Humoreaters

Tomasz Bogus

In the days when the Earth was young and people were still children, stories grew next to pears on the willow trees, the springs bubbled with jokes, and the woods swarmed with banter, larks, and pranks. Everyone was amused by their own weaknesses, entertained by their own helplessness, and the truth never hurt. It never entered anybody's head to get upset because they had a crooked nose, freckles, or sticking-out ears. In those days everyone liked themselves and each other, but the highest regard and esteem went to the wags and jesters, those who could disarm every misunderstanding, dispute, or quarrel with a smile, or turn it into a joke.

How long did this Earthly Paradise last? No one knows! But in the opinion of Qqnamuniu, the author of the Book of the World, the happy, children's age of humankind ended when the Humoreaters arrived on our planet.

At first these tiny, transparent little creatures didn't bother people. It didn't strike anyone as suspicious that they had crossed half the galaxy, holding fast to a comet's tail, to land precisely here on Earth. Nor did it interest anyone what they ate. But the humoreaters acquired a taste for human jokes. They particularly loved the sharp, delicate and light ones. It was their delight to suck the sense out of them, throwing the rinds of the words to one side. They treated yarns, anecdotes, and jests in the same way.

When they started on pranks, people did begin to get a bit annoyed, but no one knew how to stop the humoreaters from devouring something as fleeting as good humor. When they swallowed up the jolly japes, the subtle squibs, and the cheery chaffing, they drained the springs of jokes and flew off. A Sadness, never known till now, fell over people. Many said they had been robbed; many thought that they had lost something very precious indeed, something they would miss forever.

The wags, the wits, and the jesters tried to fight the Sadness, but this proved impossible, for the humoreaters had eaten all that was best, leaving only heavy, reheated jokes, spicy, peppery and fatty tales, stupid and ambiguous jests. People's sense of humor, up till then good, rosy, carefree and like champagne, from now on became tasteless, bitter, sullen and grim. And worst of all, after good humor had vanished, there came an epidemic of Seriousness which has plagued humanity from that day to this.

Seriousness leads us to torment ourselves and others with trifles and make mountains out of mole-hills. It is Seriousness which, by kindling pride, makes people pelt each other with the mud of slanders and the stones of insult. And this Mortal Seriousness has for centuries been leading whole nations into the dark, under banners covered with self-righteous slogans.

Can nothing save us now? In the Book of the World, Qqnamuniu assures us that we can recover the joy of life. We must only rid ourselves of just a little bit of Seriousness, believe in the power of Laughter, and not be afraid of our own weaknesses.

"Humorjady" was translated by Katarzyna Kietlinska and David Malcolm. This is the first authorized translation of Bogu>' works into English.

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The Sarmatian Review
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