Europa's Fairy Book [European Folk and Fairy Tales] | Annotated Tale

COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in October 2018 with all known ATU Classifications.

Reynard and Bruin

YOU must know that once upon a time Reynard the Fox and Bruin the Bear went into partnership and kept house together. Would you like to know the reason? Well, Reynard knew that Bruin had a beehive full of honeycomb, and that was what he wanted; but Bruin kept so close a guard upon his honey that Master Reynard didn't know how to get away from him and get hold of the honey. So one day he said to Bruin, "Pardner, I have to go and be gossip--that means god-father, you know--to one of my old friends." "Why, certainly," said Bruin. So off Reynard goes into the woods, and after a time he crept back and uncovered the beehive and had such a feast of honey. Then he went back to Bruin, who asked him what name had been given to the child. Reynard had forgotten all about the christening and could only say, "Just-begun." "What a funny name," said Master Bruin.

               A little while after Reynard thought he would like another feast of honey. So he told Bruin that he had to go to another christening; and off he went. And when he came back and Bruin asked him what was the name given to the child Reynard said, "Half-eaten." The third time the same thing occurred, and this time the name given by Reynard to the child that didn't exist was "All-gone,"--you can guess why.

               A short time afterwards Master Bruin thought he would like to eat up some of his honey and asked Reynard to come and join him in the feast. When they got to the beehive Bruin was so surprised to find that there was no honey left; and he turned round to Reynard and said, "Just-begun, Half-eaten, All-gone--so that is what you meant; you have eaten my honey." "Why no," said Reynard, "how could that be? I have never stirred from your side except when I went a-gossiping, and then I was far away from here. You must have eaten the honey yourself, perhaps when you were asleep; at any rate we can easily tell; let us lie down here in the sunshine, and if either of us has eaten the honey, the sun will soon sweat it out of us." No sooner said than done, and the two lay side by side in the sunshine. Soon Master Bruin commenced to doze, and Mr. Reynard took some honey from the hive and smeared it round Bruin's snout; then he woke him up and said, "See, the honey is oozing out of your snout; you must have eaten it when you were asleep."

               Some time after this Reynard saw a man driving a cart full of fish, which made his mouth water. So he ran and he ran and he ran till he got far away in front of the cart and lay down in the road as still as if he were dead. When the man came up to him and saw him lying there dead, as he thought, he said to himself, "Why, that will make a beautiful red fox scarf and muff for my wife Ann." And he got down and seized hold of Reynard and threw him into the cart all along with the fish, and then he went driving on as before. Reynard began to throw the fish out till there were none left, and then he jumped out himself without the man noticing it, who drove up to his door and called out, "Ann, Ann, see what I have brought you." And when his wife came to the door she looked into the cart and said, "Why, there is nothing there."

               Reynard in the meantime had brought all his fish together and began eating some when up comes Bruin and asked for a share. "No, no," said Reynard, "we only share food when we have shared work. I fished for these, you go and fish for others."

               "Why, how could you fish for these? the water is all frozen over," said Bruin.

               "I'll soon show you," said Reynard, and brought him down to the bank of the river, and pointed to a hole in the ice and said, "I put my tail in that, and the fish were so hungry I couldn't draw them up quick enough. Why do you not do the same?"

               So Bruin put his tail down and waited and waited but no fish came. "Have patience, man," said Reynard; "as soon as one fish comes the rest will follow."

               "Ah, I feel a bite," said Bruin, as the water commenced to freeze round his tail and caught it in the ice.

               "Better wait till two or three have been caught and then you can catch three at a time. I'll go back and finish my lunch."

               And with that Master Reynard trotted up to the man's wife and said to her, "Ma'am, there's a big black bear caught by the tail in the ice; you can do what you like with him." So the woman called her husband and they took big sticks and went down to the river and commenced whacking Bruin who, by this time, was fast in the ice. He pulled and he pulled and he pulled, till at last he got away leaving three quarters of his tail in the ice, and that is why bears have such short tails up to the present day.

               Meanwhile Master Reynard was having a great time in the man's house, golloping everything he could find till the man and his wife came back and found him with his nose in the cream jug. As soon as he heard them come in he tried to get away, but not before the man had seized hold of the cream jug and thrown it at him, just catching him on the tail, and that is the reason why the tips of foxes' tails are cream white to this very day.

               Well, Reynard crept home and found Bruin in such a state, who commenced to grumble and complain that it was all Reynard's fault that he had lost his tail. So Reynard pointed to his own tail and said, "Why, that's nothing; see my tail; they hit me so hard upon the head my brains fell out upon my tail. Oh, how bad I feel; won't you carry me to my little bed." So Bruin, who was a good-hearted soul, took him upon his back and rolled with him towards the house. And as he went on Reynard kept saying, "The sick carries the sound, the sick carries the sound."

               "What's that you are saying?" asked Bruin.

               "Oh, I have no brains left, I do not know what I am saying," said Reynard but kept on singing, "The sick carries the sound, ha, ha, the sick carries the sound."

               Then Bruin knew that he had been done and threw Reynard down upon the ground, and would have eaten him up but that the fox slunk away and rushed into a briar bush. Bruin followed him closely into the briar bush and caught Reynard's hind leg in his mouth. Then Reynard called out, "That's right, you fool, bite the briar root, bite the briar root."

               Bruin thinking that he was biting the briar root, let go Reynard's foot and snapped at the nearest briar root. "That's right, now you've got me,

don't hurt me too much,"

called out Reynard, and slunk away.

"Don't hurt me too much,     
don't hurt me too much."

               When Bruin heard Reynard's voice dying away in the distance he knew that he had been done again, and that was the end of their partnership.

               Some time after this a man was plowing in the field with his two oxen, who were very lazy that day. So the man called out at them, "Get a move on or I'll give you to the Bear"; and when they didn't quicken their pace he tried to frighten them by calling out, "Bear, Bear, come and take these lazy oxen." Sure enough, Bruin heard him and came out of the woods and said, "Here I am, give me the oxen, or else it'll be worse for you." The man was in despair but said, "Yes, yes, of course they are yours, but please let me finish my morning's plowing so I may finish this acre." Bruin could not say "No" to that, and sat down licking his chops and waiting for the oxen. The man went on plowing, thinking what he should do, when just at the corner of the field Reynard came up to him and said, "If you will give me two geese, I'll help you out of this fix and deliver the Bear into your hands." The man agreed and he told him what to do and went away into the woods. Soon after, the Bear and the man heard a noise like "Bow-wow, Bow-wow"; and the Bear came to the man and said, "What's that?" "Oh, that must be the lord's hounds out hunting for bears." "Hide me, hide me," said Bruin, "and I will let you off the oxen." Then Reynard called out from the wood, "What's that black thing you've got there?" And the Bear said, "Say it's the stump of a tree." So when the man had called this out to the Fox, Reynard called out, "Put it in the cart; fix it with the chain; cut off the boughs, and drive your axe into the stump." Then the Bear said to the man, "Pretend to do what he bids you; heave me into the cart; bind me with the chain; pretend to cut off the boughs, and drive the axe into the stump." So the man lifted Bruin into the cart, bound him with the chain, then cut off his limbs and buried the axe in his head.

               Then Reynard came forward and asked for his reward, and the man went back to his house to get the pair of geese that he had promised.

               "Wife, wife," he called out, as he neared the house, "get me a pair of geese, which I have promised the Fox for ridding me of the Bear."

               "I can do better than that," said his wife Ann, and brought him out a bag with two struggling animals in it.

               "Give these to Master Reynard," said she; "they will be geese enough for him." So the man took the bag and went down to the field and gave the bag to Reynard; but when he opened it out sprang two hounds, and he had great trouble in running away from them to his den.

               When he got to his den the Fox asked each of his limbs, how they had helped him in his flight. His nose said, "I smelt the hounds"; his eyes said, "We looked for the shortest way"; his ears said, "We listened for the breathing of the hounds"; and his legs said, "We ran away with you." Then he asked his tail what it had done, and it said, "Why, I got caught in the bushes or made your leg stumble; that is all I could do." So, as a punishment, the Fox stuck his tail out of his den, and the hounds saw it and caught hold of it, and dragged the Fox out of his den by it and ate him all up. So that was the end of Master Reynard, and well he deserved it. Don't you think so?


The main incidents of "Reynard the Fox" occur in folk-tales throughout Europe, and it has often been discussed whether the folk-tales were the foundation of the beast epic or vice versa. Since, however, it has been proven that many other incidents besides those used in the beast satire are found among the folk, it is generally allowed nowadays that, apart from a few Æsopic fables included in the satire, the main incidents were derived from the folk. On this subject see my introduction to "Reynard the Fox" in the Cranford Series.


               I have selected a number of the most characteristic of these folk-tales relating to the former friendship and later enmity of the Fox and the Bear, basing my compilation on the admirable monographs of Prof. K. Krohn of Helsingfors, "Mann und Fuchs," 1891, "Baer (Wolf) und Fuchs; eine nordische Tiermärchenkette," in Journal de la Société Finno-Ougrienne, vi., Helsingissa, 1889, and "Die geografische Verbreitung einer nordischen in Finnland," in Fennia, iv., 4. The latter monograph is accompanied by an interesting map of Finland, showing the distribution of the Scandinavian form of these stories, in which the Bear is the opponent of the Fox, and the Slavonic form in which the Wolf takes that position. As there is obviously a mythological tendency at the root of the stories, intending to account for the shortness of the Bear's tail and the white tip of the Fox's, it is clear that the Scandinavian form is the more original.

               I have tried to collect together in a logical narrative:

(a) Fox and Bear in partnership--(Top-off, Half-gone, All-gone).
(b) Fox in fish cart.
(c) Iced Bear's tail.
(d) Fox and cream jug.
(e) Fox on Bear's back.
(f) Fox in briar bush.
(g) Man promises Fox two geese for freeing him from Bear.
(h) Gives him two dogs.
(k) Fox and limbs; sacrifices tail.

               In his article in Fennia, Prof. Krohn refers to no less than 708 variants of these different episodes, of which, however, 362 are from the enormous Finnish collections of folk lore in possession of the Finnish Literary Society at Helsingfors. The others include the majority of European folk-tale collections with a goodly sprinkling of Asiatic, African and American ones, the last, however, being confined to "Uncle Remus," in which four out of the ten incidents occur in isolated adventures of Brer Rabbit.

               Many of the incidents occur separately in early literature; (g) (h) (k) for example, which form one sequence, are found not alone in Renard but also in Alfonsi, 1115, and Waldis. (c) The iced bear's tail occurs in the Latin Ysengrimus, of the twelfth century, in the Renart of the thirteenth, and, strangely enough, in the Hebrew Fox Fables of Berachyah ha-Nakadan, whom I have identified with an Oxford Jew late in the twelfth century. See my edition of Caxton, Fables of Europe, i., p. 176. The fact that ice is referred to in the last case would seem to preclude an Indian origin for this part of the collection.

               It is not quite certain however that all the above incidents were necessarily connected together originally. The fish cart (b), and the iced bear's tail (c), are so closely allied that they probably formed a unity in the original conception, though they are often found separately nowadays among the folk. Bear and Fox in partnership (a), is found elsewhere told of other animals, notably of the firm of Cat and Mouse in Grimm No. 2. It is difficult to determine at present whether stories relating to other animals, or even to associations of men, have been applied by peasant narrators to the general opposition of the sly versus the strong animal, which they have dramatized in the beast satire of Reynard and Bruin.

               For a discussion of the whole subject, see A. Gerber, Great Russian Animal Tales, Baltimore, 1891, who discusses the incidents included in the above compilation in his notes on v. (a), i. (b), ii. (c), iii. (d), iv. (e), iva. (f), ix. (g), x. (h), xi. (k). It will be found that few of the other incidents contained in Gerber can be traced throughout Europe except when they are evidently derived from Æsop.

SurLaLune Note

ATU 1: The Theft of Fish

ATU 2: The Tail-Fisher

ATU 4: Sick Animals Carries the Healthy One

ATU 5: Biting the Tree Root

ATU 15: The Theft of Food by Playing Godfather

ATU 154: The Fox and His Members

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Reynard and Bruin
Tale Author/Editor: Jacobs, Joseph
Book Title: Europa's Fairy Book [European Folk and Fairy Tales]
Book Author/Editor: Jacobs, Jopseh
Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons
Publication City: New York
Year of Publication: 1916
Country of Origin: Europe
Classification: ATU 1: The Theft of Fish

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