Erasmus vs. the Balrog
December 30, 2004
Yet again, this weblog is experiencing a sudden influx of traffic from Google searchers questing after the elusive goddess of folly. (Yes! This is your Number One site responsive to that search, and we intend to maintain our supremacy!) I have previously mentioned this phenomenon here and here, and the whole thing was started by a post exactly a-year-and-a-day-ago, which you can read here.
A commenter to one of those earlier posts helpfully suggested that the most likely explanation for these concentrated bursts of interest in the Goddess would be hundreds of people working the same crossword simultaneously, using Google and the like to track down an answer. Imagine their frustration in the past upon finding that the answer isn't here!
Friends, as an attorney I am in a service profession. I am here to help. (And I am wracked with guilt over the many readers who daily come this way seeking the location of the nearest Spencer Gifts store, only to find that they have been misled by my jesting title for a piece I posted about an English painter.) So, to set all right with my conscience as the New Year approaches, I will provide you with the answer you are seeking.
The Name of the Goddess of Folly is:
Yes, Moria: the same as Tolkien's dark dwarvish mine where the wizard Gandalf so memorably meets his plot twist (and experiences significant personal growth) at the hands of a Balrog of Morgoth.
The answer is to be had in the third paragraph of Erasmus' The Praise of Folly, Chapter 1:
But let none of you expect from me that after the manner of rhetoricians I should go about to define what I am, much less use any division; for I hold it equally unlucky to circumscribe her whose deity is universal, or make the least division in that worship about which everything is so generally agreed. Or to what purpose, think you, should I describe myself when I am here present before you, and you behold me speaking? For I am, as you see, that true and only giver of wealth whom the Greeks call Moria, the Latins Stultitia, and our plain English Folly. Or what need was there to have said so much, as if my very looks were not sufficient to inform you who I am? Or as if any man, mistaking me for wisdom, could not at first sight convince himself by my face the true index of my mind? I am no counterfeit, nor do I carry one thing in my looks and another in my breast. No, I am in every respect so like myself that neither can they dissemble me who arrogate to themselves the appearance and title of wise men and walk like asses in scarlet hoods, though after all their hypocrisy Midas’ ears will discover their master. A most ungrateful generation of men that, when they are wholly given up to my party, are yet publicly ashamed of the name, as taking it for a reproach; for which cause, since in truth they are morotatoi, fools, and yet would appear to the world to be wise men and Thales, we’ll even call them morosophous, wise fools.
So there you have it. Happy to be of service. Feel free to read something else while you are here, seeker.
[Update 1049 PST: What's that you say? You only have space for three letters? Then try "Ate," identified here as the Greek goddess of "Discord, Wickedness & Blind Folly." More at Encyclopedia Mythica.]
Talk about folly! You say: "Friends, as an attorney I am in a service profession." Well, yeah, if by that you mean "service with a smile (sometimes) and a bill (always)."
Posted by: David Giacalone | December 30, 2004 at 11:51 AM