Author: Charlotte Perkins Gilman

A Village of Fools

There was a certain village, a little village on a little stream; and the inhabitants thereof were Fools.

By profession they were tillers of the soil; and they kept beasts, beasts of burden, and beasts to furnish meat. They lived upon the products of their tillage, and upon the beasts, and upon fish from the stream.

The Wise said, "This is a good village. There is land to furnish food, and beasts in plenty, and a good stream flowing steadily from the tree-clothed hills. These people should prosper well."

They did not know that the people of the village were Fools; Utter Fools. Observe now their Foolishness! They cut down the trees of the hills to make their fires withal; many and great fires, without stint or hindrance; and presently there was no more any forest upon the hills to cover them. Then the moist breath of the cloud-building forest was dried away; and the thick wet sponge about the roots of the forest was dried away; and the snow slid down the hills as it slides down steep roof gables; and the rain ran down the narrow valleys as it runs down gutter pipes; and the village was swept by floods in flood time, and lay parched and thirsty in the dry season. And the people of the village called the flood an Act of God, and they called the drought an Act of God; for they were Fools.

Their fields they tilled continuously, for they needs must eat; gathering from the good ground year after year, and generation after generation, till the ground became sour and stale, and was bad ground and bore no fruit.

"Surely," said the Wise, "they will gather from the stables of their beasts and from the village that which shall enrich their soil and make it bear fruit again."

They did not know that the people of the Village were Fools.

Thus did they with their beasts. They kept them thick in their village; draught animals and burden-bearers; and from the defiled streets arose a Plague of Flies, and tormented the people, so that they fell sick of divers diseases. And they themselves crowded together ever more thickly, till all the village became unsavory and unfit for human habitation. Then they arose, wagging their heads sagaciously; and with vast labor and expense they gathered together from their stables and their habitations all that which should enrich the soil and produce fruit again; and they poured it carefully into the stream. Now this was the stream from which they drank; and when they drank their diluted diseases they fell sick anew, and many died.

Also the fish fed upon this filth, and they also absorbed diseases; and the people fed upon the fish which had fed upon the filth, and again fell sick, and many died.

And those who died they carefully wrapped up in many coverings and laid in the ground—them and their diseases with them—that the seeds thereof might be fostered eternally, and continually came forth anew.

But the Wise burned their dead in clean fire, cherishing their memories in their hearts, but not their slowly deteriorating remains in the dark earth. And the wise kept their forests as a wild garden, planting as well as reaping; having wood therefrom at need, and always the green beauty and the cool shade, the moist winds and carpet of held water over the hill slopes.

Their streams were pure and steady, tree shadowed and grass bordered from end to end; for a tree beareth food as well as a field, and is planted in a moment and the young tree cometh up as the old tree dieth.

And their fields they fed continually, so that they bore more rather than less from year to year, and they prospered and did not die of hand-made diseases.

But they knew not their own wisdom, for these things it seemed to them that even Fools might see, and do accordingly.

Neither did the Fools know their own foolishness.


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Chicago: Charlotte Perkins Gilman, "A Village of Fools," Forerunner, ed. Symons, Arthur, 1865-1945 and trans. Elwes, R. H. M. (Robert Harvey Monro), 1853- in Forerunner (London: Smith, Elder & Co., November 1909 - December 1910 (14 issues)), Original Sources, accessed August 8, 2022,

MLA: Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. "A Village of Fools." Forerunner, edited by Symons, Arthur, 1865-1945, and translated by Elwes, R. H. M. (Robert Harvey Monro), 1853-, in Forerunner, Vol. Volume One, London, Smith, Elder & Co., November 1909 - December 1910 (14 issues), Original Sources. 8 Aug. 2022.

Harvard: Gilman, CP, 'A Village of Fools' in Forerunner, ed. and trans. . cited in November 1909 - December 1910 (14 issues), Forerunner, Smith, Elder & Co., London. Original Sources, retrieved 8 August 2022, from