Yet he said in scorn as he passed, “Monsieur, Dieu vous garde!” “O thou foul red villain!” said the bear to himself. “What impudence can equal thine?” But the fox continued his speech: “What, uncle, have you forgotten everything at Lanfert’s, or have you paid for the honeycombs you stole? I would rather pay for them myself than that you should incur any disgrace, the honey was good, you may have plenty more at the same price. If Good uncle, tell me before I go, into what order you mean to enter, that you wear this new fashioned hood?
Will you be a monk, an abbot, or a friar? He that shaved your crown seems also to have cropped your ears; your forelock is lost, and your leather gloves are gone. Fie, sloven! go not bareheaded! They say you can sing peccavi rarely.” These taunts made Bruin mad with rage; but because he could not take revenge, he was obliged to let him talk on. At last, to avoid him, he plunged again into the river and landed on the other sid
All these so belabored the poor bear that his life was in extreme jeopardy; he sat and sighed sadly during the massacre, but the thundering weight of Lanfert’s fierce blows was the most cruel to bear; for Dame Podge, at Casport, was his mother, and his father was Marob, the staplemaker, a passing stout man when he was alone. From him Bruin received such a shower of stones, at the same time that Lanfert’s brother wielded him a savage blow upon the pate, that he could no longer see nor hear, but made a desperate plunge into the adjoining river, through a cluster of old wives standing by, many of whom he threw into the water, which was broad and deep, among whom was the parson’s wife.
Seeing her floating there like a seamew, the holy man left off striking the bear, crying out, “Help, oh, help! Dame Jullock is in the water! I absolve the man, woman, or child that saves her, from all their sins and transgressions, past and to come, and I remit all penance.” Hearing th
With all haste the bear entered the tree with his fore feet forward, and thrust his head into the hole quite over the ears. When the fox saw this, he instantly ran and pulled the wedges out of the tree, so that the bear remained locked fast. Neither flattery nor anger now availed the bear, for his nephew’ had got him in so fast a prison, that it was impossible to free himself by any maneuver.
What profited him his great strength and valor now? They only served to irritate and annoy him; and deprived of all relief, he began to howl and bray, to scratch and tumble, and make such a noise, that Lanfert came running hastily out of the house to see what was the matter. He held a sharp hook in his hand, and while the bear lay tearing and roaring in the tree, the fox cried out in scorn, “He is coming, uncle! I fear you will not like the honey; is it good? Do not eat too much; pleasant things are apt to surfeit, and you will delay your journey back to court. If your belly
“Ay!” quoth Bruin; “honeycombs, do you say? Hold you them in such slight respect, nephew? Why, sir, it is food for the greatest emperors in the world. Help me, fair nephew, to some of these honeycombs, and command me while I live; for only a small share I will be your servant everlastingly.” “You are jesting with me, surely, uncle,” replied the fox. “Jest with you!” cried Bruin; “bestrew my heart, then; for I am in such serious good earnest, that for a single lick of the same you shall count me among the most faithful of your kindred.”
“Nay, if you be,” returned Reynard, “I will bring you where ten of you would not be able to eat the whole at a meal. This I do out of friendship, for I wish to have yours in return, which above all things I desire.” “Not ten of us,” cried the bear, “not ten of us! it is impossible; for had I all the honey between Hybla and Portugal, I could eat the whole of it very shortly myself.”
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.