A Well-Deserved Classic: Van den vos Reynaerde

Van den vos Reynaerde has it all: deception, conflict, sarcasm, violence, (homosexual) innuendo, parody, and black humor. To top it off, it’s even featured on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum — the Papal seal of quality.

Our hero in this epic is Reynaert, a wily fox. Surrounded by nobility and other animals that are lustful, voracious, miserly, and greedy, the basic moral of the story is that you can only be deceived if you’re greedy. The narrator always hints at or even tells you what the result of the next part of the story will be, but it’s all about the how, not the what.

This particular edition is very good. The introduction tells about the various Reynaert stories across Europe, and much more; the text itself seems to have the perfect amount of footnotes to make dictionary use unnecessary, unless you want to know more about the etymology of a word. Generally, though not always, the footnotes call out attention to similar words in e.g. German and English, when clarifying certain words that are no longer in use. The commentary on the text in the back gives much background information on why even seemingly innocent descriptions might carry meaning.

However, I suppose that you might want to try one of the translations into Modern Dutch, even if you’re a native speaker of Dutch, unless Middle Dutch interests you. For that purpose I hope that there’s an edition that puts the original text and the translation side by side.

F. Lulofs (ed.) (2001). Van den Vos Reynaerde.

★★★★★

I originally wrote this review on Goodreads on January 15, 2012.

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1 Comment

  1. I forgot to include that speakers of English can grab an open-access translation for free. To quote myself:

    Van den vos Reynaerde (13th century). Available in English translation as Of Reynaert the Fox, full PDF here. This work is rightfully considered a masterpiece. Inspired by a French original using the basic format of the Arthurian romance, it shows the whole world to be corrupt and egotistical. Its cleverness, its dark humor, its cruelty and its mix of genres make this the seminal text in the international Reynard tradition.

    You can alternatively acquire the document from the OAPEN Library here.

    January 22, 2017 @ 14:40Permalink
    Frans

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