Freaks were in demand in the Medieval world, especially artificial ones. Fortunately for young Nicholas, we’re much more enlightened about deviance these days.
This story was inspired by Victor Hugo’s horror story The Man Who Laughs, about a man who’d had a smile permanently carved on his face as a child by Comprachicos. Hugo describes these villains as follows:
“The comprachicos, or comprapequenos, were a strange and hideous nomadic association, famous in the seventeenth century, forgotten in the eighteenth, unknown today…
Comprachicos, as well as comprapequenos, is a compound Spanish word that means ‘child-buyers.’ The comprachicos traded in children. They bought them and sold them.
They did not steal them. The kidnapping of children is a different industry. And what did they make of these children?
The people needs laughter; so do the kings. Cities require side-show freaks or clowns; palaces require jesters…”
Of course, we don’t turn perfectly normal children into freaks anymore. Comprachicos are a thing of the past. Indeed, therapists prefer to talk about dyssemia (dys = difficulty, semes = nonverbal signs and signals) rather than ‘deviance.’ Dyssemia is a psychological affliction, whereas deviance is a philosophical stance.