Van den vos Reynaerde (Reynard the Fox)-A Review


Van den vos Reynaerde (Reynard the Fox)-A Review

Van den vos Reynaerde (Reynard the Fox)-A Review

Van den vos Reynaerde (Reynard the Fox)-A Review

Van den vos Reynaerde (Reynard the Fox)-A Review

“Van den vos Reynaerde” (Reynard the Fox) is indeed one of the most famous and enduring medieval Dutch epics, known for its satirical and allegorical portrayal of human behavior and society through the use of animal characters. The text is attributed to various authors and was likely composed in the 13th century. It offers a fascinating glimpse into the literary and cultural landscape of medieval Europe, showcasing the blend of humor, social commentary, and allegory that were characteristic of the time.

Synopsis and Structure:

The epic revolves around the cunning character Reynard the Fox, who embodies both intelligence and deceit. The narrative follows Reynard’s interactions with other anthropomorphic animal characters, such as the noble lion King Noble and other creatures like Bruin the bear, Tibeert the cat, and Grimbeert the badger. The story unfolds through a series of episodes that usually involve Reynard outwitting his fellow animals, exploiting their weaknesses and vices.

The story’s structure often resembles a series of nested tales. Reynard tricks his fellow animals through a combination of flattery, manipulation, and deception, leading to comical and morally ambiguous situations. Each encounter serves as a commentary on human vices, societal hierarchies, and political power dynamics.

Themes and Allegory:

“Van den vos Reynaerde” is a rich allegorical work that uses animal characters to satirize human behavior and institutions. The characters represent various human traits and classes, making the story a reflection of the medieval social order. Reynard, for example, stands for cunning, wit, and trickery, critiquing those who use their intelligence for personal gain rather than communal well-being. King Noble represents both the regal and naive aspects of leadership.

The tale delves into themes such as justice, morality, and societal corruption. Reynard’s ability to escape punishment by exploiting the weaknesses and vanities of his adversaries highlights the flaws in the system of justice and governance. The portrayal of corrupt clergy, hypocritical nobles, and gullible commoners serves as a commentary on the moral decay prevalent in society.

Literary Significance:

“Van den vos Reynaerde” is a prime example of the medieval beast fable genre, which was popular across Europe. It reflects the cultural and intellectual trends of its time, including the tension between courtly values and Christian morality. The use of animals as characters allowed the authors to address controversial and critical subjects in a more indirect manner, often escaping censorship and punishment.

Authorship and Evolution:

The epic’s authorship is uncertain and has been attributed to multiple writers. The most well-known version of the text is in Middle Dutch, but there are also adaptations in various languages, including Middle Low German, Middle English, and Latin. The story evolved over time, with different versions introducing new episodes and characters. This evolution highlights the tale’s enduring popularity and adaptability.


“Van den vos Reynaerde” remains a significant work in Dutch literature and continues to be studied for its intricate blend of satire, humor, and allegory. It offers insights into the cultural and societal dynamics of the medieval period while maintaining its relevance in addressing universal themes of human nature and social structure.

In conclusion, “Van den vos Reynaerde” is a captivating medieval Dutch epic that employs animal characters to satirize human behavior, criticize societal flaws, and explore complex moral and ethical themes. Its enduring legacy lies in its ability to entertain, provoke thought, and offer a window into the medieval mindset and literary tradition. 0 0 0.

Van den vos Reynaerde (Reynard the Fox)-A Review

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N.B. The article originally belongs to the book entitled ‘Reviews of Epic Literature Around the World‘ by Menonim Menonimus.


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I am Menonim Menonimus, a Philosopher & Writer.


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