The Legend of Renaud of Montauban 6: The Grand Prose, and Modern Adaptations

The Rhymed Remainement of the Quatre Fils was turned into prose for Jean V of Créquy (1395-1474), chamberlain of Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy, and finished November 12, 1462. It was begun well beforehand, since David Aubert’s abridged version of volumes 2 and 3 was finished in 1458.  Perhaps David Aubert wrote this version, too. The Grand Prose consists of the following versions.

Lf: BN fr. 19,173-19,177. (Jean le Faron) Five volumes.

Pm: Bib. Du Comte de Schönbron in Pommersfelden, 311-312. Two volumes, incomplete.

Am: Arsenal 5,072 – 5,075 and Munich, Gall. 7. Five volumes in two different libraries.

David Aubert’s Chroniques et Conquestes de Charlemagne. Includes an abridged version, stopping short before the martyrdom.

The version in the Bibliotheque Universelle des Romans, by Antoine-René de Voyer d’Argenson, Marquis de Paulmy.

The story begins with a mise en prose of Maugis d’Aigremont, down to the baptism of Vivien and Esclarmonde, after which Bueves and his men return home. Volume 2 (in the 5 volume sets) opens with the death of Espiet, after which Maugis gives Baiard to Renaud. Bueves’ death is treated very briefly, with a comment that it will not be treated in full. It then covers Renaud’s wars as in the Rhymed Remainement down to his vow to go to Jerusalem. Volume 3 covers the crusade. Volume 4 deals with the death of Renaud and the wars which followed it. At one point in these wars, Marsile is besieging Angorie, and Roland cuts off his nose. Volume 5 tells how Maugis and Renaud’s brothers were killed, and how they were avenged, as in the RR, concluding with the story of Mabrien, who is the son of King Yon of Jerusalem and his wife Aiglentine, but is kidnapped one night and sold to the Admiral Barré, who raises him as a valiant knight. Mabrien learns his true identity and goes ot France to seek his father Yon of Montalban. There he learns that his father is King of Jerusalem, and travels thither, winning the kingdom by his strength. Among his many adventures, he is shipwrecked on the Isle of Adamant [in adventures copied from those of Huon and Ogier], and meets King Arthur, Cain, and various fairies. Mabrien eventually begets a son named Regnaudin, who has a son named Aimon.

The text focuses more on emotional states than the RR does, and there is a hint of the Renaissance pedantry which will shortly arrive to ruin European prose for centuries.

MODERN RETELLINGS

The following list does not pretend to be exhaustive.

Bibliotheque Universelle des Romans

The July 1778 issue of the BUR was devoted to an abridgment of the story of Renaud and his family as found in Am, by the Marquis of Paulmy and the Count of Tressan. Paulmy, the main writer, also drew on Ar, A, and various chapbooks. He greatly trimmed the adventures of Renaud in the Holy Land and expanded the Ardennes War and the Martyrdom. The story of Bueves is gone, as are the treason of Vaucoleurs, and most of the sieges of Montauban and the entirety of Tremoigne. The horse race stays; the four sons of Ripeus are reduced to two. Since the siege of Tremoigne is gone, Renaud hands over Baiard to the Emperor at Montauban. Charles then takes the horse all the way to Tremoigne to throw him into the Meuse. Maugis only has the power to work his magic for Renaud thrice: stealing the swords of the Peers, enchanting them into the castle, and kidnapping Charles.

Others

Bulfinch’s Mythology: Legends of Charlemagne. 1863. The many faults of Thomas Bulfinch must be a subject for another post, but he is unfortunately still one of the two best introductions to Carolingian legend, as a whole, in English. His section on “Rinaldo” in “The Peers, or Paladins” starts with the story of how Rinaldo won Baiard, which is from Torquato Tasso’s Rinaldo. A brief summary of his service with King Ivo and the building of Montalban follows, which ignores Clarice. Bulfinch places the Innamorato and Furioso next in his book, and resumes Rinaldo’s story proper after Roncesvalles. Rinaldo commits “a slight offense” against Charlemagne’s son Charlot, and is obliged to take refuge in Montalban [Charlot cannot die here, because Bulfinch will later have him be killed by Huon of Bordeuax]. The story of the capture of all three of his brothers, his loss of Baiard and his succor by Malagigi disguised as a pilgrim follows, all according to the Germano-Dutch version, only that Charlot is still alive, and takes Roland’s place in the recovery of Baiard. The next chapter, “Death of Rinaldo,” picks up at the starvation of the brothers in Montalban, continuing to follow the Germano-Dutch. Rinaldo’s mother Aya intercedes for him with Charlemagne. Charlot, not Charles, tries to drown Baiard, and actually succeeds! Rinaldo’s pilgrimage and martyrdom follow the Germano-Dutch. It is a mystery for the ages where Bulfinch learned this story. He lived in the days before writers cited their sources routinely, and he only says in his introduction that he used “[Pulci, Boiardo and Ariosto], the “Romans de Chevalerie” of the Comte de Tressan; lastly, certain German collections of popular tales.”

Histoire des Quatre Fils Aymon, Tres nobles et tres valiants chevaliers. 1883, illustrated by Eugene Grasset, in full color. Can be found on Gallica here. I am not sure where the text is from.

Maugis Ye Sorcerer, by Frederick Henri Seymour, 1898. Despite its name, this is actually a retelling of the Quatre Fils, only the author has switched the names of Renaud and Maugis. The title and introduction suggest that the story will be a burlesque, but there is little trace thereof in the actual text. Evidently from a chapbook, as the Saxon King at the beginning is called “Guesdelin le Fene [the Sluggard]” instead of “le Saisne [the Saxon];” Clarice is renamed Yolande; Renaud and Maugis drown in a duel with Pinabel, instead of being martyred, etc.

Histoire des Quatre Fils Aymon, Tres nobles et tres valiants chevaliers. 1908, illustrated by Robida. A fancy edition printed for the Librairie Moderne. A modernized version of the printed editions of 1480 and 1493, with delightful Romantic woodcuts. Sadly does not seem to be on the internet.

 

There are a multitude of locations in the Low Countries which are named after the Four Sons, Baiard, and Maugis, and many statues and paintings of them are to be seen there.

Statues of Baiard and the Four Sons were carried in parades in the Low Countries as early as the 1400’s.

To this day, puppeteers in the north of France and the Low Countries perform, among others, the play of the Four Son of Aymon, with various modernizations. For example, the Four Sons were used as symbols of the Resistance during World War II, and after the War it was popular to play Charlemagne as a caricature of Charles de Gaulle.

The notices given of Saint Reinold in collections of lives of the saints are often very inadequate. The Oxford Book of Saints, for example, hardly has a true statement in its summary. Thurston and Attwater’s revision of Butler is not much better.

APPENDIX: ROLDAN AL PIE DE LA TORRE

(ROLAND AT THE FOOT OF THE TOWER)

A Hispanic ballad, surviving only in a few very short, corrupt versions of what was doubtless once a much longer story.

Rondale paces in a light rain, with a gold falcon on his wrist, crying “Who will aid me?” He intends to kill the King of France and his men, and marry his daughter. He comes to the castle of Count Argile [Ogier], a lord of great strength.

I mention this ballad here because in some manuscripts of La Quatre Filz Aymon, when Charlemagne refuses to make peace with Renaud to save the life of Richard of Normandy, a disgusted Roland threatens to leave him, saying “Ogier, what will you do? Will you come with me? Let us leave this foolish old dotard.” I suspect (though I haven’t found it in any professional scholars) that there may be some connection between these two passages, but I cannot prove it.

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