A Suffolk mansion and a whopping 12 hectares (30 acres) of land were given, quite literally, by order of Henry II, to a man famous for his ability to use gas. Roland le Petour, also known as Roulandus le Fartere, was granted the land in the late 12th century. He was probably a clown and had to jump, whistle and fart to entertain the assembled guests on special occasions like Christmas.
Historical references can be found in 13th century English. Liber Feodorum The Book of Fees is a text that records feudal estates in England, or lands that were effectively owned by individuals directly reporting to the royal family. Roland requirements to run Saltum, siffletum, pettum’¸¸ (i.e. jumps, whistles, farts) were recorded properly. He’s clearly a standard clown whose farts were his stake in exchange for staying on Henry’s good books in exchange for this very sprawling estate.
Specifically, he referred to the term sajanti, a term used to describe a form of feudal tenure contingent on offering the monarch certain personal services other than those of a knight. This is how Roland was able to get the manor and the land by the service.
from the translated version of Liber Feodorum : “A sergeant once held by Farting Rowland in Hemmingston, County Suffolk, was obliged to perform one jump and one whistle every year on the Lord’s birthday before his master the King. One fart was alienated according to these specific requirements.”
In the 12th century, “Farting Roland” was given an estate in Suffolk by Henry II for his services to comedy. His trick was “jumping, whistling and farting” for the King every Christmas day. Nothing says “Christmas” quite like Skittering’s Flatlist effort. #StiffUpperBrits pic.twitter.com/kqDwD9Yjr5
— Adrian Thiel@ [email protected] (@TealCartoons) December 24, 2018
A Deep Dive into Poor Historical Records and Flatulence
However, the historical record of Rowland is rather lacking, as explored by Valerie Allen, who wrote a comprehensive historical account of Rowland in her 2007 book. About Farting: Medieval Language and Laughter Her research, based on commission books, suggests that Roland may have worked first under Henry I and then under Henry II. By the time Henry III appeared, Roland had been sacked and the king found his services and talents rather “vulgar”. This forced Roland to surrender his land and mansion.
It was highly unlikely that Roland actually lived the length of the reigns of two kings and reached a third of their reigns. However, he was a much loved and coveted figure, and his stories were a source of much joy and amusement.
The ubiquity of flatulence meant that no position in the social class was exempt. Everyone was worried about the uncontrollable wind blowing out of their bodies. According to Allen, there was an added layer (pun intended). This was one of his “more than it looks” situations.
“Because gas is a product of decomposition, many medieval writers saw it as a sign of death, both morally and theologically. It’s a reminder that we’re all mortal, that’s all we are, that we’re both mortal and sinful,” she said.
Flatulence in other cultures and histories
Surprisingly, Roland was no historical freak who had this unique place in social history. For example, this occupation was widespread in Ireland throughout the Middle Ages. 8th century Irish record list tradition Bruges Doire, Or fart, as the person who held the retainer in court. An Irish fart group, contemporary with Rowland, Bragetriallegedly occupied the banquet table of the High King of Ireland.
“The Image of Irelande”, John Derrick, 1581. His two Wanderers can be seen on the right side of the painting. ( public domain )
“Not all farters were landowners,” warns Allen, but at least a specialty was established, if not a profession. “You should think that this kind of entertainment was central and necessary in a celebratory occasion, requiring a high degree of skill and a variety of performing tricks,” she says.
In Canada, Matoshishkapoo (literally the god of farts) in Inus mythology is a very powerful spirit. He is considered a legendary shaman, capable of inflicting gastrointestinal pain and relief on others at will, he is even more powerful than his legendary caribou master. Matoshish Kapoo was cursed with a painful case of constipation and begged pardon from his master Caribou before giving full relief.
St. Augustine of Hippopotamus (354-430 AD) also said of a performer: Percentage of people who voluntarily emit (without foul smelling) notes from behind that appear to be singing from the area. ”
According to St. Augustine, some people can control flatulence to sing. His 1892 Le Petomane drawing published in the Paris qui Rit (Laughing at Paris) magazine ( public domain )
There is even evidence of fart performers from Japan’s Edo period (1600s and 1700s).Performers were summoned to the streets of Tokyo shows featured people appearing in a “freak show”. One of the stars of the popular show was Hanasaki Kirifuri. There is documented evidence from 1774 that he took in large amounts of air and released it in a modulated flatulent aria. There was a popular story about the performers who showed the dance. Hepiri Man or a man’s fart.
Roland the Furter was not alone. Some cultures appreciated the humor of flatulence. Battle for Nihonga (Fat Battle), 1864 ( public domain )
In modern times, flatus has been reintroduced into fashion in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by famous French fart and entertainer Le Petomane (literally, Farting Maniac). He developed a technique to suck it in through the mouth and release it through the rectum. He was able to take water into his rectum and release it over long distances. He could also smoke a cigarette in his butt and even blow out his candles.
“He dressed in a tuxedo and presented each note as if it were a musical solo. Of course, the disagreement about a dignified gentleman farting only adds to the humor.” , writes music journalist and self-proclaimed fart scholar Jim Dawson.
Le Petmanet equaled the fame of the famous French artist, flatlist and farting Roland. Moulin Rouge advertisement ( public domain )
Farting has lost popularity in recent years, but there are still a few performers trying to keep the tradition alive, especially with the advent of the internet and video networking sites like YouTube. But it’s safe to say that nothing compares to Roland the Furter’s “in the air” prowess.
Above: Farting Roland’s flatulence was so impressive at first sight that he was gifted land by Henry I. Painting of The Court Jester by John Watson Nicol, 1895. source: public domain
Crick, J., Houts, E.V. 2011. Social History of England, 900-1200. Cambridge University Press. Available at https://books.google.co.in/books?id=mM6OA8wtPOYC&dq=%22roland+the+farter%22&pg=PA405&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=%22roland%20the%20farter%22&f=false.
Gasper, G. December 23, 2021. Roland Eating Eels, Picking the King of Beans and Farting: Part of a Medieval Christmas and New Year Celebration Available at https://theconversation.com/eating-eels-electing-bean-kings-and-roland-the-farter-part-of-the-medieval-christmas-and-new-year-festivities-174003 .
Girod, L. May 7, 2021. Roland the Furter, Life of a Medieval Flatlist Available at https://historyhustle.com/roland-the-farter/.
McRobbie, LR Dec 28, 2015. The True Story of Roland the Furter, and How the Internet Killed Professional Flatulence Available at https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-true-story-of-roland-the-farter-and-how-the-internet-killed-professional-flatulence.
Mitrica, D. July 3, 2014. Roland le Fartere – 12th century medieval flat list Available at: https://www.zmescience.com/other/offbeat-other/roland-le-fartere-medieval-flatulist-12th-century/.
Rajan, R. 20 July 2022. Interesting history of Roland the Furter. Available at https://owlcation.com/humanities/The-Funny-History-of-Roland-the-Farter.
Rowland, R. 25 January 2022. Roland the Furter: 1 jump, 1 whistle, 1 fart Available at https://rowlandgenealogy.com/roland-the-farter-one-jump-one-whistle-and-one-fart/.