Anonymous: about 1230
Nothing is known of the writer of the first version of the celebrated Reynard the Fox. The problem of the origin of the book is complicated, but it is generally agreed that a series of incidents attributed to an Alsatian writer of the late Twelfth Century was the basis of the book as it stands in the version here used.
This was printed in 1498, though it was probably written about 1230. Reynard was soon afterwards translated into nearly every language of Europe. The book, in one form or another, has been a popular favourite among all classes of readers, and has for centuries been rewritten to suit the tastes of each generation.
The present version, translated by Thomas Roscoe, is reprinted from Roscoe’s German Novelists, London, no date. It is Chapter IV of The Pleasant History of Reynard the Fox. The full title of the chapter is How Bruin the Bear Sped with Reynard the Fox, followed by a brief description.
Bruin The Bear And Reynard The Fox
From Reynard the Fox
The next morning away went Sir Bruin the bear in quest of the fox, armed against all kinds of plots and deceit whatsoever; and as he went along through a dark forest in which Reynard had a bypath which he used when he was out hunting or being hunted, he saw a high mountain, over which he must pass to reach Malepardus.
For though Reynard had many houses, Malepardus is his chief and most ancient castle, and there he resorted both for defense and pleasure. When Bruin at length came to the place, he found the gates close shut; at which, after he had knocked, sitting upon his tail, he called aloud, “Sir Reynard, are you at home?
I am Bruin, your kinsman, sent by the king to summon you to court, to answer the many foul accusations laid at your door. His majesty hath taken a great vow if you fail to appear to the summons, your life shall answer for your contempt, and your whole goods and honors become confiscated to the crown. Therefore, fair kinsman, be advised by your friend, and come with me to court, in order to shun the fate that will otherwise overtake you”: so said the bear.
Reynard, who was lying near the gate, as was his custom, basking in the sun, hearing these words, departed into one of his holes, Male pardus being full of many intricate and curious apartments, through which he could pass in case of danger or for objects of prey, where he determined to commune with himself awhile how best he might counterplot, and bring the bear into disgrace, while he added to his own credit, for he detested the bear; and at last coming forth, said, “Is it you, dear uncle Bruin?
You are exceeding welcome, and excuse my delay in saying so; but the truth is, that when you began to speak I was saying my vespers, and devotion must not be neglected for any worldly concerns. Yet I believe he hath done you no good service, nor do I thank him who hath sent you hither, a long and weary journey, in which your sweat and toil far exceed the worth of the labor performed. It is certain, that had you not come, I had tomorrow attended the court of mine own accord. As it is, however, my regret is much diminished, because your counsel just at this time may turn to my double benefit. Alas! uncle, could his majesty find no meaner a messenger than your noble self to employ in these trivial affairs?
Truly it appears strange to me, especially since, next his royal self, you are of greatest renown, both in point of blood and riches. For my part, I would that we were both at court, as I fear our journey will be exceedingly troublesome. To say truth, since my entire abstinence from flesh, I have lived upon strange new meats, which have very much disagreed with me, and swelled my body as if it was about to burst.” “Alas! dear cousin,” said the bear, “what kind of meat can it be that makes you so ill?” “Uncle,” he replied, “what will it avail you to know? The food was simple and mean: we poor gentry are no lords, you know, but are glad to eat from necessity what others taste for mere wantonness. Yet not to delay you, that which I ate was honeycombs, large, full, and very pleasant. But, impelled by hunger, I ate so very immoderately that I was afterwards infinitely distempered.”