That Darn Fox (Mmm… Marginalia #104)

I have detailed the crimes of Reynard the Fox before, though in truth I have barely scratched the surface of his perfidity, for it is manifest and myriad. Alas, though Reynard’s murderous psychopathy wacky hijinks make frequent appearances in the work of medieval marginal illuminators, their favorite of his crimes to depict was also the most mundane: running with a stolen bird clenched in his teeth, often with an angry farmer’s wife brandishing a distaff in a futile gesture. Like so:



Or so:*

Really, manuscript art is so lousy with running Reynards that I’m always surprised when I find a novel twist on the theme. Like this gravity-joke:

The poor dog can’t find the clever Reynard, because he’s run up the floriate border into the top margin where the dog can’t go. I’d also like to think the rabbit managed to escape Reynard’s attention by blending in with those similarly-silhouetted plants to either side of him.

But my favorite fox in flight has to be this one from the Gorleston Psalter:**

Even Reynard seems surprised to find his food talking. And note that the medieval English duck says “Queck”, not “Quack”.*** Remember that the next time you find yourself tasked with making a period accurate See’n Say.


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  1. * Hey, didn’t I already use this one in a post? Why, of course. []
  2. ** Made in the same area and around the same time as the more famous Macclesfield Psalter. []
  3. *** Even when being strangled by a fox. []

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