For some odd reason, I occasionally compare myself to a character named Reynard the fox. The first versions of this tale are from 1150AD – and have been re-written countless times in many different ways.
The beginning of the story is usually a meeting of the animal court. Various animals accuse Reynard of crimes, though most vocal are Isengrim the wolf and Chanticleer the rooster. These two charge Reynard with adultery and murder, and it is decided that Reynard is to be hanged.
Various animals are sent to collect Reynard, but only Grimbert the badger, Reynard’s nephew, is able to convince Reynard to defend himself at court while avoiding one of Reynard’s tricks. Reynard appears at court, and is able to trick king Noble the lion into letting him go.
Eventually, Reynard murders a rabbit, forcing Grimbert to summon his uncle to court yet again. Reynard once again tricks the king, but this time, Isengrim challenges him to duel. Reynard is able to win the duel through trickery, and is given a high status in the court. Eventually, Isengrim is able to challenge Reynard once again, this time to a game of chess. Reynard, overconfident and drunk, loses the game, as well as a bet giving Isengrim claim to any part of his body that Isengrim chooses.
Isengrim wounds Reynard after this loss, and Reynard is thought dead. His funeral is held, and his old enemies come and eulogize their enemy. Reynard revives, however, only to be attacked by Chanticleer, who seems to kill him in a nearby river. In fact, Reynard only pretends to be dead, returning to his wife and children at Malperdy while everyone thinks him dead, inspiring the most quoted line in the epic, usually translated as “Yet Reynard still lives on.”
There are hundreds of different versions of this story, and many intricate medieval etchings available to the public, but one representation of this story that I find amazing is this set of taxidermy creatures, depicted in six different tableux showing the various important parts of the story of Reynard. They were created in the mid eighteenth century by Hermann Ploucquet and displayed at the Royal museum in Stuttgart; even shown in an 1851 exhibition to Queen Victoria to which she wrote in her personal diary that she found his work ‘really marvellous’.
You can find out more about his brilliant taxidermy work here.