The Legend of Renaud of Montauban 4: The Quatre Fils in Prose

The MSS of the mises en prose of the Quatre Fils fall into two families.

FIRST FAMILY

Sl: British Museum, Sloane 960. (Sloane)

Follows MS D very closely. Aye recommends her sons go to Gascoine, not Espagne. There are some details from later versions, however: e. g. Baiard was raised on an isle in the sea, Charlemagne mobilizes his army at Laon, not Paris. There is an edition by Marie-Henriette Notredaeme which is sitting unpublished in the University of Ghent and will never see the light of day. Support copyright reform!

SECOND FAMILY

These MSS omit the prologue, and begin with the Ardennes episode in the standard version, not from CNV. Probably from P, A, or O.

La: BN fr. 1481 (Lancelot)

Bm: British Museum, Royal 16 G II. (the same as MS. B of the Quatre Fils) The best MS.

Ma: British Museum, Royal 15 E VI. (Marguerite d’Anjou)

Tr: Troyes, Bib. Municpale, 743. (Troyes)

Co: BN fr. 19170, (Coislin)

SECOND FAMILY WITH PROLOGUE ADDED

Ar: Arsenal, 3151. (Arsenal)

Ar is the MS, or is very similar to the MS, from which the French printed version is derived, with all its descendants, including William Caxton’s English translation and the French chapbooks in the Bibliotheque Bleue. It is the only MS of the Second Family to include the story of Bueves of Aigremont, after ZM. An edition was done by Jean-Marcel Léard for a doctoral thesis, and sits unpublished and gathering dust in the University of Sorbonne. Support copyright reform!

Sl follows D very closely. Its most interesting detail is that Baiard is a fairy horse, brought up on an isle off the coast of Normandy, by a fairy in Sansbart [does not exist], near Torigny, in the diocese of Bayeux. Other minor details differentiate it from D, such as Charles gathering his army at Laon, and not Paris, when he is making war against the Sons in the Ardennes.

 

Most MSS of the Second Family omit the story of Bueves, and thus begin with Charles going to war against the four brothers, who live in the Ardennes, for no apparent reason.

Ar is the only one to include the embassy of Lohier, the death of Bueves, and the deadly chess game. The second family, in general, follows A, although the story of Bueves is from the ZM version.

The chase is the most common version, DCVA. Ogier, Naimes and Foulques guard the Paris gates.

Tremoigne is PLOMAH. Maugis succors the merchants. Charlot does not feature. Baiard is thrown into the Meuse at Liege.

The Holy Land episode is from PLOA, as is the Combat of the Sons.

Renaud is killed with hammers, and his body stops in Ceoigne, as in POA.

 

In some 1500’s editions, Baiard was born not in Etna or Boucan, but on Colchos (where Jason found the Golden Fleece).

The French chapbooks, known as the Bibliothèque Bleue, of the Quatre Fils, under various titles, are descended from Ar. Each one faithfully copied the errors of its predecessors and added new ones of its own. Chapters were dropped, pages sewn in backwards and never corrected, abridgements were made more or less at random, religious references were removed, swear words toned down, etc. A particularly absurd example comes from the death of Bertholai, which he brings on himself by calling Renaud “malheureux [wretch]” because “whoreson” was too offensive to print. Guitelin the Saxon [Le Saisne] becomes Guerdelin the Lazy [Le Fène], etc. Some versions change the ending: Pinabel, of the family of traitors, is in the process of carrying off two damsels, when Renaud happens to see him. Renaud challenges him to battle, and in the ensuing struggle the two of them roll into the river and drown.

We will spare the reader a full list of chapbooks, but he may find such a list in Part VI of Entre Épopée et Légende: Les Quatre Fils Aymon ou Renaud de Montauban.

 

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