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Roman de Renart (French "beast epic"; 13th Cent.)

How Reynard Captured Chanticleer (Summarized)

 

Reynard comes to a farm house with many cocks and many hens; Constant Desnoes, a rich peasant, owns them all. His house is well stocked with all kinds of food, and he has many fruit trees.

His yard is well-fenced with oak sticks and thorn bushes, and in it are his hens. The fox tries to get in it, but the thorns stop him. So he sits on the path, thinking that he will not jump on the hens, or he will frighten them.

He finds a broken pail, and he hides there where cabbages have been planted. He climbs up and falls inside in a heap, which makes the hens fly away.

Chanticleer the cock comes in from the wood and asks why his hens fly away. Pinte, the best egg layer, says "We are afraid of a savage beast that might hurt us. I saw him, and I saw the cabbage leaf where he hid tremble."

"Hold your tongue, silly," says the Cock; "our fencing is not so old that a martin or fox can get in." But still the Cock does not feel comfortable; he keeps one eye open, and one leg straight, and he props himself against a roof where he liked to crow, and he fell asleep.

Then he dreams (don't think I lie about the dream; this is the truth; you can find it in the history) that he sees a thing in the yard with a red-furred cloak, with a collar of bones, which he forces on the Cock's back.

Chanticleer is greatly troubled about his dream and the cloak and the collar. He wakes with fright and says "Holy Ghost protect me!"

Then he runs off to his hens under the hedge; he calls Pinte aside and tells her is frightened of being carried off by a bird or a beast.

She comforts him and says "Avoy, dear sweet sir, you should not say that! You are like the dog that howls before the stone hits it. What is the matter?"

"Why," says the Cock, "I have had a dream and seen a vision that has turned me pale. I have seen a strange beast in a red-furred cloak with a collar of bones, and the hair turned inside out, into which I got for a little while. Then I awoke, trembling. What can it mean?"

Pinte answers, "The thing you saw with the red fur is the Fox. The collar of bones is his teeth, with which he will put you inside. This is the throat of the beast, with which he will squeeze your head. The fox will catch you by the neck; that is what your dream means. And it will all happen before noon. The fox is hidden in the hedges ready to deceive you."

The Cock says, "Pinte, this is foolish! This is all nonsense. I do not believe that any harm will come from this dream."

He goes back into the yard and begins to close his eyes, not fearing the Fox of which he dreamed, and he drops off to sleep.

The Fox makes ready for him and creeps up and hopes to snatch him away. The fox springs, but the Cock springs too, and the Fox misses him.

Then the Fox thinks how he might deceive the Cock. "Chanticleer," he says, "don't fly away; I am your cousin!"

Chanticleer sings with joy at his escape, but the Fox says. "Don't you remember your good father Chantieclin? No cock can crow like him. He shut both his eyes and crowed to that you heard him a league away."

Said Chanticleer, "Cousin Reynard, you want to trick me."

"Certainly not," said Reynard. "Just shut your eyes and sing. We are one flesh and blood. I would sooner lose a foot than hurt you, who are so closely related to me."

The Cock tells the Fox to draw off a little and he will sing. Then the Cock begins to sing, with one eye open and one shut.

Then said Reynard, "Oh, that is nothing compared to Chanteclin; he sang with both eyes shut, and one could hear him well beyond the hedge."

Chanticleer thought that he spoke the truth, and he shuts both eyes and sings, and the Fox seizes him by the neck and runs off.

Pinte saw Reynard carrying him off, and said "Lord, I told you the truth and you thought me a fool! Your pride has betrayed you. Reynard has carried you away. Alas! Would I were dead! I have lost my lord! I have lost my love!"

The good woman of the house opened the door of the yard and called her hens -- Pinte, Bisse, and Rousete. But none came. She calls her cock and sees the Fox carrying him off.

She tries to catch him and shouts "Harou!" and tells the workers nearby. Constant, the farmer, shouts "You dirty old whore, why didn't you catch the Fox?"

"Because he wouldn't stop," she says. The workers run shouting, and Constant calls his mastiff Mal-voisin too. And all run after the Fox.

Now is Reynard in great peril, and so is the Cock, except that he thought of a trick. "Sir Reynard," he says, "don't you hear how these peasants abuse you? Why don't you insult them saying `Reynard is taking him the Cock away, despite all you can do.'"

There is no wise man who does not sometime act the fool. The Fox, deceived, cries in a loud voice, "Despite all you can do I am carrying him away!"

When the Cock feels the Fox's mouth open, he flaps his wings and flies up into an apple tree. Chanticleer laughs and says, "Reynard, how do you feel now?"

The Fox, trembling, says "Confound the mouth that speaks when it should be silent."

Said Chanticleer, "May that eye go blind that closes when it ought to be awake! Cousin Reynard, curses on your cousinship! Be off at once, or you will suffer!"

Reynard would say no more, and he goes off, sorrowing over the Cock's escape.

 

The summary is from the marginal glosses (with some alterations) in Originals and Analogues, Part II, Chaucer Society, 1875, pp. 117-26 [Widener 11483.7].

 

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