Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Reynard, the fox. So crafty and persuasive a liar is he, that he is at last made high bailiff of the country, though he has flagrantly cheated and injured all of the animals, including the king. Thus is craftiness set above mere strength.
Noble, the lion, king of beasts. He listens to the animals’ grievances against Reynard, and even sentences the fox to death, but Reynard lies so cleverly about hidden treasure and treachery on the part of the others that the king frees him. Noble is similarly gulled a second time and on this occasion even makes Reynard high bailiff.
Isegrim, the wolf, whose children have been made blind by Reynard. Convinced of Isegrim’s treason, the king gives the wolf’s shoes to Reynard. After this, when the wolf and the fox are engaged in combat, Reynard persuades Isegrim to let him go with promises of rewards.
Tibert, the cat. He defends Reynard before the others until he has been tricked by the fox into jumping into a trap.
Bruin, the bear. Reynard’s promises of honey lure him into a trap, and he is badly beaten before he escapes. Later, Reynard convinces the king that Bruin is plotting to replace him as ruler. Noble gives Bruin’s skin to Reynard.
Grimbard, the brock (a badger). He defends Reynard before the court and even warns the fox of a plot against him.
Panther, who complains of Reynard to the king.
Chanticleer, the cock. His complaint is that Reynard deceived him into relaxing his vigilance by pretending to have given up eating flesh; Reynard then eats Chanticleer’s children.
Kyward, the hare. He accompanies Reynard on a “pilgrimage” and is eaten by him.
Bellin, the ram, who goes with Reynard and Kyward. Deceived into thinking he is carrying a letter, he brings Kyward’s head to the king. The furious king then gives the stupid ram and all his lineage to the wolf and the bear to atone for his misjudgment of them.
Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Bellon, Roger. “Trickery as an Element of the Character of Renart.” Forum for Modern Language Studies 22, no. 1 (January, 1986): 34-52. Examines Reynard the Fox in terms of its use of archetypal elements of the medieval fable. Provides insight into the social significance of the trickster character.
Blake, N. F. “Reflections on William Caxton’s Reynard the Fox.” Canadian Journal of Netherlandic Studies 4, no. 1 (May, 1983): 69-76. Provides a thorough exploration of William Caxton’s translation of the medieval classic. Blake’s treatment provides a general consideration of Reynard’s place in the Germanic literary tradition, folk narrative, and European fable.
Owen, D. D. R., trans., ed. The Romance of Reynard the Fox. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1994. Notes and introduction offer a comprehensive overview of the fable, its history, its place in medieval art, and its revelations about medieval society.
Varty, Kenneth. “Animal Fable and Fabulous Animal.” Bestia: Yearbook of the Beast Fable Society 3, no. 1 (May, 1991): 5-14. Discussion of European beast fables considers Reynard the Fox within its historical, aesthetic, and ideological context. Also considered is the evolution of the animal in European folklore.
Varty, Kenneth. Reynard the Fox: A Study of the Fox in Medieval English Art. Leicester, England: Leicester University Press, 1967. Considers Reynard the Fox’s impact on the visual art and literature of the medieval period. Presentation includes color plates and textual excerpts.