|Honey, Milk, and Porridge: Food Theft in Reynard the Fox, Scrapefoot the Fox, and The Three Bears
Index terms: Folk Studies, Language and Literature - Comparative, Medievalism and Antiquarianism
Many focus on the hunting scenes of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as representative of Gawain's chivalric struggle in the bedroom scenes that interlace them. However, the Green Knight's game is not merely one of courtly conduct, but a literal hunt: from the moment he interrupts King Arthur's feast, he is presented as a hunter. And a hunter he remains throughout the piece, from his pact with Gawain as Bertilak to the final confrontation at the Green Chapel. He hunts varied and noble animals - deer, boar, fox, and finally Sir Gawain himself. For the Green Knight, the human is just as animal as his other quarries.
The medieval beast epic thrives through the wily fox, a character who persists in stories today, and many of these tales utilize eating and food theft to portray a wicked antihero who disregards civilised modes of behaviour and ownership. The medieval cycles of Reynard the Fox establish the fox's wit and greed, the later, undated tale of Scrapefoot re-emphasizes a brazen disregard for others, and, finally, the Victorian 'vixen' of The Three Bears translates this behaviour into that of disobedient humans. This paper will explore how these tales relate to one another with relation to their predominant food details.
Animals, both domestic and wild, played a pivotal role in community survival during the Carolingian age (c.750-950) as food and clothing, labor and transportation. Access to the exotic and ownership of the mundane demonstrated status and wealth. The common appearance of animals in the written record, as both featured players and background, reflects their ubiquity in this era. This paper will focus on one beast in particular - the wolf - and its nearly universal representation in Carolingian texts as untamable and terrifying. What prompted such negativity? How did the views of Carolingian authors compare with their continental and insular contemporaries?