Harman Patil (Editor)

Van den vos Reynaerde

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Originally published  1972
Author  Paul Biegel
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Van den vos Reynaerde (English title: Of Reynaert the Fox) is the Middle Dutch version of the story of Reynard, as written by Willem die Madoc maecte. The poem dates from around 1250. It is considered a major work of Middle Dutch literature and has been called "the pinnacle of Gothic literature in the Netherlands."

Contents

Content

Satire about a fox who kills and bullies, and gets away with his deeds. The rest of society isn't much better. The nobility is being portrayed as lazy and often stupid. Clergymen are sexually active. The common population is often violent and cruel. Many women are sexually promiscuous and include prostitutes.

Meaning

André De Vries writes that the work is an allegory of contemporary netherlandish politics at the court of Philip I of Namur, known as "Philip the Noble":

It is supposed that Willem wrote Van den Vos Reinaerde to encourage Siger III, chatelain of the Counts’ Castle in Ghent, who was unjustly deprived of his post around 1210 by Philip the Noble, Count of Namur and Regent of Flanders. The figure of the concupiscent and vacillating Noble the Lion seems to be based on Philip, who slavishly followed the King of France’s orders and handed over two princesses as hostages to his master. Reinaert’s castle is actually Siger III’s country retreat at Destelbergen, which appears on later maps by the same name as Reinaert’s lair, Mapertuus, meaning Hell’s Gate.

De Vries argues that the animal characters represent barons who conspired against the Count of Flanders. He is accused of various crimes, but generally outwits his accusers. Nevertheless, he is in the end sent into exile.

Popularity

Willem's Reynard was translated into Latin verse by a contemporary. Another, unknown, poet wrote a sequel, expanding the original to a full eight thousand line version. This version, when printed in 1487, proved very popular across Europe. It was the foundation for most later Dutch, German, and English versions, including those of William Caxton, Goethe, and F. S. Ellis.

References

Van den vos Reynaerde Wikipedia


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