In James Thurbur’s miraculous foray into the realms of whimsical and linguistic fantasmagoria, The Thirteen Clocks, prince Zorn of Zorna and his unique companion, the Golux, are tasked by the Evil Duke of Coffin Castle to find a thousand jewels and return, all in the space of nine and ninety hours, in order to win the hand of the beautiful princess Saralinda.
Desperate, they seek out Hagga, who in exchange for saving the life of Good King Gwain of Yarrow, was blessed (or cursed) with the gift of weeping precious gems. When they find her, she’s all cried out; “Once I wept when maids were married underneath the April moon. I weep no more when maids are buried, even in the month of June.”
Unable to make her cry with his most tragic tales, the Golux tries another tack; he tells ridiculous stories to make her laugh, but all he gets for his trouble are rhinestones, pearls, and semiprecious gems. Nothing seemed to help, until “without a rhyme or reason, out of time and out of season, Hagga laughed and kept on laughing…and precious jewels twinkled down her cheek and sparkled on the floor.” “I wish that she had laughed,” the Golux sighed, “at something I had said.”
The heroes gathered up the gems and returned in time to save the princess from the salacious attentions of the evil Duke, but as they left, Hagga laughed and kept on laughing.
I get Hagga, I really do. I have a sense of humor that is bizarre, often sophomoric, and wildly mercurial. Sometimes I’ll encounter something in life that clamps my funny bone in the jaws of a bear trap and won’t let go, and heaven have mercy if it strikes when I’m in public. I recall being around 18 when Bored of the Rings by Harvard Lampoon was published; I had purchased it and was sitting in a Nedick’s in New York reading it, laughing so hard that I thought I’d either be thrown out or taken away by the men in the white coats. I’ve alluded to other instances here.
In keeping with the spirit of uncontrollable laughter, I present to you a series of cartoons, some print and some electronic, which have resulted in meltdowns of various levels over time. Many of you will think that these are impossibly stupid, and that’s just fine.
The Far Side by Gary Larson
Don Martin, cartoonist for Mad Magazine
Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
Garfield by Jim Davis
Broom Hilda by R. Myers
Overboard by Chip Dunham
Wildwood by Tom Spurgeon and Dan Wright
Rose is Rose by Pat Brady
Certainly there are other things in life that have made me laugh without being able to stop – I’m thinking of the baked-bean supper from “Blazing Saddles” (who doesn’t appreciate a good flatulence joke, really), the pie fight from “The Great Race,” and the feeding machine from Chaplin’s “Modern Times” – but these are the things that floated to the top while I contemplated this particular subject.
I hope you have things in your life that have done the same for you. Laughter, they say, is good for the soul.
The Old Wolf has spoken.