Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
When Noble, the great lion-king, holds court during the Feast of the Pentecost, all the animals tell the king of their grievances against Reynard the fox. The list of sins and crimes is almost as long as the list of animals present. First to complain is Isengrim the wolf, whose children have been made blind by the crafty fox. Panther tells how Reynard promised the hare that he would teach him his prayers, but when the hare stood in front of Reynard as he was instructed, Reynard grabbed him by the throat and tried to kill him. Reynard had approached Chanticleer the rooster disguised as a monk, saying that he would never eat flesh again, but when Chanticleer relaxed his vigilance over his flock and believed the villain, Reynard grabbed Chanticleer’s children and ate them.
So the complaints go on, with only Tibert the cat and Grimbard the brock (badger) speaking in Reynard’s defense. These two remind the king of the crimes committed by the complainers, but the king is stern: Reynard must be brought to court to answer for his sins. Bruin the bear is sent to bring the culprit in. Bruin is strong and brave, and he promises the king that he will not be fooled by Reynard’s knavery or flattering tongue.
When Bruin arrives at Reynard’s castle and delivers the king’s message, Reynard welcomes the bear and promises to accompany him back to court. In fact, Reynard says, he wishes they were already at court, for he has abstained from meat and eaten so much of a new food, called honeycombs, that his stomach is swollen and uncomfortable. Bruin falls into the trap and begs to be taken to the store of honey. Reynard pretends to be reluctant to delay their trip to court, but at last he agrees to show Bruin the honey. The wily fox leads Bruin into a trap in some tree trunks, where the poor bear is set upon by humans and beaten unmercifully. He escapes with his life and sadly makes his way back to court, mocked by the taunts of his betrayer.
Enraged at the insult to his personal messenger, the king sends Tibert the cat to tell Reynard to surrender himself at once, under penalty of death. Tibert, however, fares no better than Bruin. He is tricked into jumping into a net trap by the promise of a feast on mice and rats. He, too, escapes and returns to the court, no longer a defender of the traitorous Reynard. Next, the king sends Grimbard the brock to bring the fox in. He is also warmly received by Reynard, who promises to accompany him to court. This time the evil fox actually keeps his promise, confessing all of his sins to the brock as they journey.
At court, Reynard is confronted by all his accusers. One by one, they tell of his horrible crimes against them. Reynard defends himself against them all, saying that he is a loyal and true subject of the king and the object of many lies and deceits. The king is unmoved and sentences Reynard to death. On the gallows, the fox confesses his sins, saying that he is the more guilty because he did not steal from want, since money and jewels he has in great plenty. Hearing Reynard speak of his treasure, the greedy king wants...
(The entire section is 1266 words.)
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