"My brother is too kind. He was eminent when my eminence was only imminent." -Niles Crane
Question #24812 posted on 04/24/2006 10:15 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Alrighty, here's one that's a little off the beaten path. Although, you guys do get a lot of questions off the beaten path. Anyway, there's this song called Reynardine, I think the version I have is by the Green Fields of America, and from the way the song goes, it seems like there may be a folktale or some sort of mythology around the character of Reynardine. Is there? Like, is there any folk character with that name outside of the song? If so, could you point me to some information about him, so I can understand the song better?

- Trillian, who has a lot more time to think about these things since she's finished with finals

A: Dear Trillian,

Wikipedia: second only to Google, and without the Chinese censorship baggage.

In English folklore, Reynardine is a werefox who attracts beautiful women to him so that he can take them away to his castle. What fate meets them there is usually left ambiguous in the ballads in which the character appears.

The song appears in George Petrie's 1855 collection of ballads; other variants appear in a number of broadside ballads from the nineteenth century. Washington Irving relates that the song had crossed the Atlantic and was being sung in Kentucky before 1832, and spread through North America in the nineteenth century as well. Since renard is French for "fox", and the fox frequently appears in anthropomorphic fables in France, a French origin for the story has been suggested.


-A. A. Melyngoch