What the stories of Reynard tell us about ourselves

by Rachel Baker on April 30, 2015

I thought this was a pretty interesting article…so, I’m sharing.

Enjoy.

Fox News

Why is “Reynard” being republished now? Simpson says that his version is the first readily accessible English translation to appear in almost a hundred years. I am glad that he rescued it, but I’d also like to know why no one else bothered to. There are a lot of medievalists in our universities, and Caxton’s English, which is only about a hundred years older than Shakespeare’s, isn’t difficult. (“The wulf sayd I may wel forbere your mockes and your scornes and also your felle venymous words strong theef that ye ar.”) Maybe, because of the book’s puzzling nature, people didn’t like it much, and so they left it alone. And now, perhaps, it has ridden in on the coattails of the iconoclastic trend in the modern study of fairy tales, with Disney’s prettified versions being execrated by feminists and queer-studies writers. (By Marxists, too, notably Jack Zipes, a pioneer in this campaign. His new and proudly horrifying version of the Grimms’ tales was published last year by Princeton.)

Amid the newly exposed atrocities in our folk literature, Caxton’s back-and-forthing on the subject of Reynard’s morals does not appear so shocking. One should consider, too, whether we might not be living in a time that’s comparable, or at least relatable, to Caxton’s, in the sense of strong religious feeling being juxtaposed with terrible events. The Ebola virus, Crimea, Ukraine, Syria; the Pakistani Taliban invading a school, setting a teacher on fire in front of her students, and then gunning down the children, a hundred and thirty-two of them. And that’s just last year. Worse things happened in preceding centuries, but we didn’t know about them. A beheading could be shared with only a certain number of spectators. Today, it seems, many people believe that the world is coming to an end. One of the most widely used settings for novels, movies, and television programs is a post-apocalyptic world. Measured against that, “Reynard,” laughing at cruelty, doesn’t seem so strange.

This article was written by: Rachel Baker – Click to follow on Twitter; or you can follow her at The Crafty Veteran on Bloglovin

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