Fairy-Tale Files: Bald Boy

Fairy-Tale Files, published once weekly, feature three variations of a fairy tale chosen by one of Fairy Tale Review’s editors, readers, editorial assistants, or contributors.


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In many a Turkish tale, Keloğlan, or Bald Boy, is a follicly-challenged country boy, who either bumbles or connives his way to good fortune. In some tales he is the wise fool and in others simply wise; but, he is always underestimated because of his country background. Bald Boy often outwits or outlasts a tyrannical oppressor.

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The Bald Boy archetype fits right into much American literature and film. Like Bald Boy, Huckleberry Finn is uneducated yet smarter and more moral than most. Huck’s enslaved raft mate, Jim, is another Bald Boy type—underestimated even by Huck. Likewise, Jefferson Smith (Jimmy Stewart’s Boy Ranger-become-Senator in Frank Capra’s classic film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) favors common sense over college degrees, and time spent in nature over the poisonous effects of life in the city.

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There is an anti-elitism to Bald Boy that has a long-standing appeal; but taken too far it creates the offensive magical romanticizing of persons of color, or leads voters to dream that any outsider politician can get the job done. In fact, in some Turkish tales, a high-born person will take on a bald boy disguise in an attempt to pass among the common people and take advantage—but, in the end, such a plan is always undone.