The chain does not occur in Finland as a chain, but in separate links, so that the epic character of the so-called chain at once disappears. Many of the links, indeed, occur, as some of my readers may remember, in the tales collected from Uncle Remus by Mr. Harris, so that it is impossible to regard the existence of an original Folk Epic as substantiated by Dr. Krohn's ingenious researches. The interest of those researches lies in a different direction. Sudre's researches have shown that in the eleventh and twelfth centuries a series of folk-tales existed dealing 1 K.
Krohn, Die geografische Verbreitung einer modischen Tliiermarchenkette in Finnland. Krohn has shown that precisely these traditions still exist as traditions among the Folk of to-day. We have, accordingly, evidence here of the continued existence of a fable among the Folk for at least seven centuries, during which it has spread through all the continents. Sudre and Dr. Krohn go even further. They think they can localise the original home and scene of at least one part of the tradition.
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The incident of the Iced Wolfs Tail, to which I have already referred, occurs in many places, especially in North Europe, as the Iced Bear's Tail, and is there used to explain why the Bear's tail is so short. It is, indeed, obvious, that the story as told in the Reynard Cycle loses much of its efficacy from the fact that the Wolf is nearly as well provided with a brush as Master Reynard himself. The Reynard story can only be told of an individual Wolf, the Northern folk-tale is appropriately applied to the Bear in general.
If we regard the Northern Fable as the original, it is, in its way, a myth told to explain a natural pheno- menon, viz. But even this modicum of Grimm's position is rendered doubtful, as has been shown by M. Gaston Paris, by the fact that even the Northern nations are not unani- mous in keeping to the Bear.
It is more probable that the mythological explanation was added when the Bear was substituted for the Wolf, than that the mythology was dropped when Isengrim took the place of the Bear. We are, accordingly, reduced to the conclusion that in this case the Great Bear does not point to the Pole. But after all, these investigations and theories as to the origin, meaning, and source of the Reynard have little bearing upon the attraction it had for our forefathers, and to a more limited extent for ourselves.
Amid the com- plexities of life it is an obvious convenience to possess a means by which its problems can be presented in simpler terms. The Fable or the Allegory is primarily intended to simplify the problem in this way. Man may be the most interesting thing to man, but animals are more interesting to children and to men of childlike mind.
I respect dogs. What applies to the simpler fable is even more applicable to the more elaborate Beast Satire, which is better suited to display the complicated forces which go to make up life. The life depicted in the Reynard is, indeed, a somewhat limited one. We have got down to ' hard pan,' as American miners say. It is, in truth, the bare struggle for existence that Reynard portrays, and is a fit outcome of the Feudal Age when for all but the barons life was but a bare struggle.
Medieval literature presents us, for the most part, pictures of life as seen by those above the salt. Reynard, the Fabliaux, and Villon present us with life as it appeared to the Disinherited Folk. What a life is there presented!
But it is scarcely the Moral, or the Allegory, which has attracted so many to Reynard the Fox. It is the adventurous, shifty, eponymous Hero who captures our interest. We have all a sneaking regard for the crafty villain who can control Circumstance, even though we salve our conscience by the implicit thought, ' But for the grace of God, there go I. His career is a long series of making fools of his enemy, and to the primitive mind the ' sell ' is the most exquisite form of practical wit.
To the medieval mind the triumphs of Reynard were even more attractive than they can be nowadays. Every district in those days had its Noble, its Isengrim, and its Bruin, and all the villagers who suffered from their cruelty felt a sympathetic interest in the triumphs of Reynard over them. There is another source of interest to which Reynard appealed, and still appeals. Vincent Crummies knew the human heart when he placed upon the Portsmouth stage a hero of five feet nothing combating successfully with three antagonists, all of larger inches. Reynard had another source of attraction in the Middle Ages and at the time of the Reformation.
At times he manages to gain his ends by donning a monk's cowl. He confesses his sins, and is scarcely absolved before he longs to repeat them. He thus became a type of the hypocrisy of the monkish nature. A good deal of his popularity in Germany has been due to his Protestant proclivities. Writing was, in great measure, a monopoly of the monks in the Middle Ages, and there was, accordingly, evidence that most versions of the Reynard were written down, if not composed, by monks.
This made the whole Cycle seem to be a confession of weakness by the monks. But more dis- passionate inquiry has shown that the satiric attack upon monkery is a later development, and cannot be in any sense regarded as a primary motif in the Cycle. Yet it adds many a quaint passage in the later forms of the book, and cannot be disregarded in any treatment of the subject, however cursory. Enough has now been said to put the reader in a position where he can best begin the read- ing of Reynard.
He has to expect a novel of adventure in which animals play the part of men, and for the most part bear men's names. The traits of character he will be called upon to observe will be mainly those which men can be supposed to share with beasts.
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Through it all he will see Cunning clad in Fox pelt extricating itself against invincible odds out of the most desperate difficulties. And amidst it all he will remember that, while the story-teller was relating the shifts by which Reynard overcame Noble, Isengrim, and Bruin, he was, as often as not, pointing the sly finger of scorn at the Lawyer, the Squire, or the Parson of the Parish.
IT was about the Feast of Pentecost which is commonly called Whitsuntide , when the woods are in their lusty-hood and gallantry, and every tree clothed in the green and white livery of glorious leaves and sweet-smelling blossoms, and the earth is covered in her fairest mantle of flowers, while the birds with much joy entertain her with the delight of their har- monious songs. Even at this time and entrance of the lusty spring, the Lion, the royal King of beasts, to celebrate this holy feast time with all triumphant ceremony, intends to keep open court at his great palace of Sanden, and to that end, by solemn proclamation, makes B 2 i.
Within a few days after, at the time appointed, all beasts both great and small came in infinite multitudes to the court, only Reynard the fox excepted, who knew himself guilty in so many trespasses against many beasts, that his coming thither must needs have put his life in great hazard and danger. Now when the King had assembled all his court together, there were few beasts found but made their several complaints against the fox, but especially Isegrim the wolf, who, being the first and principal complainant, came with all his lineage and kindred, and standing before the King, spoke in this manner : ' My dread and dearest Sovereign Lord the King, I humbly beseech you, that from the height and strength of your great power, and the multitude of your mercies, you will be pleased to take pity on the great trespasses and unsufferable injuries which that unworthy creature Reynard the fox hath done to me, my wife, and our whole family.
Now to give your highness some taste of these, first know if it please your Majesty that this Reynard came i REYNARD THE FOX 3 into my house by violence, and against the will of my wife, where, finding my children laid in their quiet couch, he there assaulted them in such a manner that they became blind.
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For this offence a day was set and appointed wherein Reynard should come to excuse himself, and to take a solemn oath that he was guiltless of that high injury ; but as soon as the book was tendered before him, he that well knew his own guiltiness refused to swear, and ran instantly into his hole, both in contempt of your Majesty and your laws. This, my dread Lord, many of the noblest beasts know which now are resident in your court : nor hath this alone bounded his malice, but in many other things he hath trespassed against me, which to relate, neither the time nor your highness's patience would give sufferance thereunto.
Suffice it, mine injuries are so great that none can exceed them, and the shame and villainy he hath done to my wife is such that I can neither bide nor suffer it unrevenged, but I must expect from him amends, and from your Majesty mercy. But the hound could hardly let these words fly from his lips, when, with a fiery and angry countenance, in sprang Tibert the cat amongst them, and falling down before the King, said, ' My Lord the King, I must confess the fox is here grievously complained upon, yet were other beasts' actions searched, each would have enough to do for his own clearing.
Touching the complaint of Curtois the hound, it was an offence committed many years ago, and I REYNARD THE FOX 5 though I myself complain of no injury, yet was the pudding mine and not his ; for I won it by night out of a mill when the miller lay asleep, so that if Curtois could challenge any share thereof, it must be from mine interest. Why the whole world knows he is a murderer, a vagabond, and a thief. Indeed he loveth not truly any creature, no not his Majesty himself, but would suffer his highness to lose both honour and renown, so that he might thereby attain to himself but so much as the leg of a fat hen ; I shall tell you what I saw him do yesterday to Kyward the hare, that now standeth in the King's protection.
My way lay thereby, and I heard the song : then coming nearer, I found that Mr. Reynard had left his first note and song, and begun to play his old deceit ; for he had caught Kyward by the throat, and had I not come at that time, he had taken his life also, as you may see by the fresh wound on Kyivard at this present.
O my Lord the King, if you suffer this un- punished, and let him go quit, that hath thus broken your peace, and profaned your dignity, and doing no right according to the judgment I REYNARD THE FOX 7 of your laws, your princely children many years hereafter shall bear the slander of this evil. THEN spake Grimbard the brock, that was Reynard 's sister's son, being much moved with anger : ' Isegrim, you are malicious, and it is a common saw, Malice never spake well ; what can you say against my kinsman Reynard?
I would you durst adventure, that whichever of you had most injured one another might die the death, and be hanged as a felon. I tell you, were he here in the court, and as much in the King's favour as you are, it would be much too little satisfaction for you to ask him mercy. You have many times bitten and torn my kinsman with your venomous teeth, and oftener much than I can reckon, yet some I will call up to my remembrance. Yet you devoured the good plaice alone, and gave him no more but the great bones which you could not eat yourself.
The like you did with the fat flitch of bacon, whose taste was so good, that yourself alone did eat it up, and when my uncle asked his part, you answered him with scorn, " Fair young man, thou shalt have thy share. Many of these injuries hath Isegrim done to Reynard, which I beseech your lordships judge if they be sufferable. It is reason that he which understands the law and can discern right, being of great and high birth as my kinsman is, do right unto the law. Nay, had he hanged up Curtois when he took him with the manner, he had offended none but the King in doing justice without leave ; wherefore, for respect to his Majesty, he did it not, though he reaped little thanks for his labour.
Alas, how do these complaints hurt him! I affirm, since my Lord the King proclaimed his peace, he never thought to hurt any man.
He eateth but once a day, he liveth as a recluse, he chastiseth his body, and weareth a shirt of haircloth ; it is above a year since he ate any flesh as I have been truly informed by them which came but yesterday from him ; he hath forsaken his castle Malepardus, and abandoned all royal state, a poor hermitage retains him, hunting he hath forsworn, and his wealth he hath scattered, living only by alms and good ii REYNARD THE FOX II men's charities ; doing infinite penance for his sins, so that he is become pale and lean with praying and fasting.
For so it is, most mighty sir, that in the beginning of April, when the weather was fair, I being then in the height of my pride and glory, because of the great stock and lineage I came of, and also I had eight valiant sons, and seven fair daughters, which my wife had hatched, all which were strong and fat, and walked in a yard well walled and fenced round about, wherein they had in several I 4 REYNARD THE FOX CHAP, in sheds for their guard six stout mastiff dogs, which had torn the skins of many wild beasts, so that my children feared not any evil which might happen unto them.
But Reynard, that false and dissembling traitor, envying their happy fortune because of their safety, many times assailed the walls, and gave such dan- gerous assaults, that the dogs divers times were let forth unto him and hunted him away. Yea, once they lighted upon him, and bit him, and made him pay the price for his theft, and his torn skin witnessed ; yet nevertheless he escaped, the more was the pity ; albeit, we were quit of his troubling a great while after.
At last he came in the likeness of a hermit, and brought me a letter to read, sealed with your Majesty's seal, in which I found written, that your highness had made peace throughout all your realm, and that no manner of beast or fowl should do injury one to another. He affirmed unto me that for his own part he was become a monk or cloistered recluse, vowing to perform a daily penance for his sins ; and showed unto me his beads, his books, and the hair shirt next to his skin, saying in humble wise unto me, " Sir Chanticleer, never hence- forth be afraid of me, for I have vowed never- CHAP.
I am now waxed old, and would only remember my soul ; therefore I take my leave, for I have yet my noon and my even song to say. For false Reynard, lying under a bush, came creep- ing betwixt us and the gate, and suddenly surprised one of my children, which he trussed up in his mail and bore away, to my great sorrow. For having tasted the sweetness of our flesh, neither hunter nor hound can protect or keep him from us. This is my plaint, and this I leave to your highness's mercy to take pity of me, and the loss of my fair children.
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As for you, Chanticleer, your complaint is heard and shall be cured ; to your daughter that is dead, we will give her the right of burial, and with solemn dirges bring her to the earth, with worship ; which finished, we will consult with our lords how to do you right and justice against the murderer. After this the King sent for his lords and wisest counsellors to consult how this foul murder of Reynard's might be punished. In the end it was concluded that Reynard should be sent for, and without all excuse to appear before the King to answer those trespasses should be objected against him, and that this message should be delivered by Bruin the bear.
To all this the King gave consent, and calling him before him, said, ' Sir Bruin, it is our pleasure that you deliver this message, yet in the delivery thereof have great regard to yourself, for Reynard is full of policy, and knoweth how to dissemble, flatter, and betray.
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