Residence: Los Angeles, California
Date of Performance/Collection: 2022
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): French
(Notes-The informant will be referred to as TS and the interviewer as K)
Background info: TS is a mother of 3 who grew up in Nice, France, and moved to Los Angeles when she was in her 20s. She noted that this story was told to her only by her older family members while laughing, never by her mother or other children.
K: Ok, so can you tell me the name of the story, where you heard it, and the context of the performance? Like under what circumstances was it told.
TS: Yes, yes. It is called Reynard the fox, and it is a very very old story. I only ever heard it from my grandparents after they had too much wine *laughter* because it was a dirty story and didn’t teach any uh lessons like so many of uh…I don’t know the word in English…Legende? Uh, fable?
K: Yea, a fable, like a story that teaches you a lesson?
TS: Exactly! It was only really told in the uh house because it was dirty *laughter* it’s not something you tell your child at a dinner.
K: Ok, go ahead, and make sure you even tell the dirty parts *laughter*
TS: Ok ok, it goes that uh Reynard was a fox who had done many many horrible crimes, like robbing and rape and murder, and had done so many that the king lion himself wanted to punish Reynard. But Reynard was tricky. The king sent out his best hunters to bring Reynard in but Reynard had managed to uh…trick all of them and getaway.
K: Can you elaborate on that? Tricking the other characters?
TS: I’d love to! Bruin the bear is tricked because Reynard says there is honey inside a tree and he gets stuck. Tybalt (sometimes goes by a different name) the cat is tricked because Reynard sends him to a chicken coop owned by a priest, and gets locked inside by Reynard. Reynard alerts the priest, who beats Tybalt but Tybalt retaliates by biting one of the priest’s testicles off *laughter*. Eventually, Grimbert, a badger who is also Reynard’s cousin, manages to trap him. But when Reynard is brought before the king, he uh…throws everyone under the bus I think is the phrase?
K: Like sabatoges them?
TS: Yes! So Reynard does that to everyone that tried to capture him by saying they hid a treasure from the kind and only Reynard knows where to find it so the king frees him! But reynard flees. Later, he is found by Cuwart the hare, and Belyn the ram. He murders Cuwart, puts his head in a bag and gives it to Belyn, and tells him to uh bring the bag to the kind.
K: Good god
TS: Told you it was dirty *laughter*. So when Belyn does, she is executed by the king. By the time everyone uh understands they have been tricked again by Reynard, he has already fled and was never caught.
This was a very interesting story to hear. I think most notably is how the informant said specifically it’s not like a traditional fable, as it doesn’t teach a lesson, but people still regarded it as such. It’s a very satirical story, and it’s meant to be a sort of social commentary mocking the aristocratic people of the time. There are so many different versions of the story, due mainly to its old age, that nearly everyone comments on a different thing in society. Many on the aristocratic people, some on food, some on the crime itself. It’s interesting how many variations there can be of the same story.
For another version of this story, see: Anonymous. (1982). Le Roman de Renart. Champion.