Ventriloquism has its beginnings in the very human need to communicate.
In the early days of The Order of La Bouche Fermée, the monks were along the banks of the Rhone, building their first monastery. Having taken vows of silence in the belief that all human suffering originated from hurtful words (this belief exacerbated by the Biblical tale of the Tower of Babel, as well as their perpetually quarrelsome parents), they looked forward to the peace and serenity they thought their silence would bring.
Brother Pierre (who had been a stone mason prior to taking his vows) and Brother Bois (a former carpenter) became involved in a heated argument about the construction materials to be used for their new sanctuary (actually, due to their vows there was no argument – without words, it slid right into confrontation, as you will see.)
Brother Pierre had marked the corners of the construction area with stones, and Brother Bois came into camp with a bundle of deadwood on his back. He shook his head at Pierre’s work, and went about kicking aside the cornerstones and replacing them with some of the sticks he was carrying. Pierre, returning from the quarry with a load of stones, witnessed this. He walked over to one of the corners, ripped the stick out of the ground, and replaced it with another stone. He then threw the stick at Bois, who yelped (and then immediately clapped his hand to his mouth before he fully verbalized his pain.) Bois tossed the newly placed stone, which landed on Pierre’s foot, resulting in a lot of grimacing and hopping on the mason’s part. The confrontation escalated from this point, with sticks and stones flying as the two combatants ran, and then stumbled, and then crawled about the worksite supplanting each other’s work.
Brother Bouffon observed the battle, and tried to signal his brethren to stop fighting, but they were oblivious. He would have yelled, but didn’t want to risk violating his vows (he had already been disbarred from the Order of Notre-Dame du Froncement for telling jokes and causing his former brethren to openly smile in violation of their vows of frowning, and he truly did not want to endure yet another such humiliation.)
Now, Brother Jean Petit was sitting on a tree stump, peeling potatoes and ignoring the fray. Bouffon marhed over and hoisted the diminuitive monk from his place, sat on the stump, and perched Jean Petit on his knee. With his mouth thus hidden from the others behind Jean’s back, he shouted “Posez vos armes!” (Put down your weapons)
The two warring monks, upon hearing the unfamiliar sound of a human voice speaking actual words, stared at Jean Petit in disbelief. The poor little fellow kept shaking his head and working his lips in frustration, but in adherence to his vows saying nothing, while from behind him Bouffon continued:
“Les bâtons et les pierres peuvent briser vos os, mais les mots ne vous blesseront jamais. Utilisez vos mots.” (Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you. Use your words.)
The three monks sat down together and, taking turns passing Jean Petit around for cover, were able to resolve the disagreement without further bloodshed (AND without openly breaking their vows.)
(As a side effect of this, lip-reading fell into disuse, since it was impossible to tell what some dummy was saying as their lips never truly matched the words (this was, of course, before the invention of lip-synching), and so sign language was born.)
It’s always best to use your words.
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