18 DECEMBER 2019
A TASTE OF HONEY
OR, REYNARDINE RUINS CHRISTMAS
CHRISTMAS SPECIAL · PART I
You must know that once upon a time Reynard the Fox asked his friend Bruin the Bear if he could stay with him at his home for the winter. Bruin, reluctantly, accepted. ‘But you must help me to bring in the honey from the beehives in the Winter Woods,’ he said. ‘My family will be staying with us on Christmas Eve, and we must have a jug full of sweet honey for each of us.’ And Reynard agreed; and he was as good as his word—after a fashion...
Welcome to the Lore & Legend Christmas Special, and the Court of King Arthur in Camelot!
The setting for our story is inspired by a recurring trope in many of the knightly romances written about King Arthur and his Knights - that many of their adventures began and concluded either around the time of Christmas and New Year or Pentecost, and that King Arthur
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"he would never eat
Upon such a dear day ere he was told
Of some adventurous thing, an astonishing tale
Of some mighty marvel that he might believe
Of our elders, of arms, of other adventures,
Or some stalwart besought him for some true knight
To join with him in jousting, in jeopardy to lay
At risk life for life, each happy if the other
By Fortune was Favored the fairer to have.
This was the king's custom whenever he was in court
At each fine feast among his fair retinue
c c c
This is seen in the romance tales of Gawain and the Green Knight and Sir Jaufre.
King Arthur also waits to be served last, as a show of humility and equality before his court. The food described in this episode is based partly upon the poem, and partly inspired by other descriptions of medieval and fantasy feasts - the famously lavish descriptions of G.R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire trilogy provided some inspiration! To further emphasize Arthur's ritual of humility, we have him here dining upon dishes which were usually served to the lowest status individuals at a feast: frumenty, a dish of pottage and raisins, and 'humble pie' - pies made from the offcuts and cast-off pieces of the slaughtered animals, the 'umbles'.
The Boar's head is a famous traditional centerpiece to the Christmas feast, commemorated in the Boar's Head carol:
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The boar's head in hand bear I
Bedecked with bay and rosemary;
So I pray you my masters be merry,
Quot estis in convivio [as many as are at the feast].
Chorus: (twice after each verse)
Caput apri defero [I bring in the boar's head]
Reddens laudes Domino [giving thanks to the lord]
The boar's head as I understand
Is the rarest dish in all the land,
Which thus bedecked with a gay garland,
Let us servire cantico [serve it with a song]
Our steward hath provided this
In honour of the King of bliss,
Which on this day to be served is
In Reginensi atrio [in Queen's Hall]
c c c
Here you can find a reconstruction of the menu and courses of a Christmas-style medieval feast inspired by the text of Gawain and the Green Knight, and further reading on the ceremony and etiquette of medieval feasts.
In our Lore Talk episode 'Of Parrots and Porridge Wands', we discussed the mystical status and prestige of the parrot or the 'Bird of Paradise', and the fact that King Arthur himself keeps a parrot (or popinjay) and that parrots were often motifs in royal decoration. The belief that parrots could speak and that they were spiritual truth-tellers meant they were sometimes depicted as storytellers. In our tale, King Arthur's popinjay steps into the breach to act as the first tale-teller in our three-episode cycle.
The parrot tells the tale of Reynard the Fox and what happens when he entrusted with the secret of Bruin the Bear's specially stored winter reserve of honey. This a variant of Aarne-Thompson folktale type 15, 'Stealing the Partner's Butter', which told about two animals, often natural enemies, who team up temporarily until one betrays the other. In the most common variant, the cat and the mouse, the cat eats the mouse when his deception is finally revealed. In the fox and bear tales, the heat of the sun or a fire allows the bear to successfully prove the fox is the culprit by making his fur greasy, or else the fox uses his trickery to shift the blame to the bear.
There are many folktales about foxes, but the characters of Reynard the Fox and Bruin the Bear belong to a traditional cycle of tales and characters which were told and retold in Dutch, English, French and German literature. Stories about Reynard and the tricks that he plays on his animal counterparts were related in Ysengrimus, Roman de Renart, Van den vos Reynaerde (‘About Reynard the Fox’) and The History of Reynard the Fox. 'Reynard' became a synonym for foxes in general, especially in France, and the name 'Mr Fox', 'Reynard' or 'Reynardine' was often used in folk tales as an archetype for a character who was a rogue or rake even in human form.
Join us tomorrow for our second tale from the Christmas Court of King Arthur - The Christmas Coals.
Story interpreted and performed by Rick Scott.
Sound editing, audio design and original illustrations by Rick Scott.
Lore & Legend Series Theme composed and performed by Robert Bentall.
Podcast hosting by Anchor. Video and audiogram creation using Headliner.
Relic Jungle background pattern from DIN Patterns (www.dinpattern.com | facebook.com/EvanEckardYT)
Incidental and background music tracks by Derek and Brandon Feichter on Bandcamp. Used with credit as per the disclaimer on their Youtube Channel.
Additional incidental music, background ambience and sound effects by multiple authors sourced from Freesound.org.
See below for the full list of audio files and attribution credits:
S: LogsOnLogs.wav by acclivity | License: Attribution Noncommercial
S: Someone Snoring.mp3 by JuandreSound | License: Creative Commons 0
S: Snoring 4 by sankalp | License: Attribution
S: snoring by Daxter31 | License: Attributio
S: Christmas loop 1D69 by Setuniman | License: Attribution Noncommercial
S: Air Media - Christmas Sound.wav by airmedia | License: Creative Commons 0
S: Christmas Bells.wav by zoefitzgerald | License: Attribution Noncommercial
S: Sleigh bells 90 bpm loop.wav by soundstack | License: Creative Commons 0
S: santa - ho ho ho #1.wav by canucklovingbrit | License: Creative Commons 0
S: Trumpet/Cornet Flourish.mp3 by dominictreis -- -- License: Creative Commons 0
Sir Gawain and The Green Knight: A Close Verse Translation on The Geoffrey Chaucer Website, President and Fellows of Harvard College, Accessed 11/12/2019.
Sir Gawain and The Green Knight translated byW. A. Neilson, Publications Middle English Series, (Cambridge, Ontario 1999)
'The Fox Steal the Butter: Fables of Aarne-Thompson-Uther Type 15' on Folktexts: A Library of Folktales, Folklore, Fairy Tales, and Mythology, Editor D. L. Ashlimann, accessed 11/12/2019.