One bean to rule them all

Yellow occupies a prominent place in this illustration. And for good reason, it is a color with ambiguous symbolism. Often negative, it takes on a positive connotation in its golden form.


Today is Epiphany, the day when we eat the traditional Kings’ Cake, delicious, warm and golden. Hidden under the table, the youngest member of the family repeatedly answers the question “Who will get this share?” until everyone is served. On this day, the person who finds the bean is the “king” or the “queen,” in homage to the wise men.


This illustration twists the idea of the cake festival by showing a smirking king who, surprisingly, emerges from an intact cake, holding the bean with his fingertips. His eager gaze betrays the presence of a disreputable sentiment. “It is MINE,” you think you hear him say.


This real king has, then, decided to seize the bean — symbol of power and glory — before the guests, to steal the show from the king or queen of the day. It does not matter to him whether he deprives them of a fleeting traditional joy or the happiness of feeling as if reigning for a day.


He acts in the name of power. This is what the title “One bean to rule them all” reveals. In Lord of the Rings, the kings tear each other apart for one ring, the one that will allow someone to “rule them all.” In a crisis of legitimacy, they need an object of power. On the day of Epiphany, this object is the bean, which gives entitlement to the golden paper crown, symbol of sun or light and, by extension, of life, energy, joy or power.


To gain power, nothing is too base or too low: the end justifies the means. So, taking away the power of the one to have inherited it is not a problem. There can be only one.


Here, yellow takes on several layers of symbolism: those of celebration and royalty, but also those of betrayal and envy, and finally of blindness.

We are, then, faced with a blinding envy which makes one lose all discernment, which justifies betrayal instead of a celebration.