â€˜Henryson plays throughout with the notion of the â€œnobleâ€ cock and parodies tales of chivalric romance.â€™ (J. A. Tasioulis)
Animal fables have often been used as a means of telling a story to convey a moral, a lesson that may be adopted by those who hear or read it. Since the times of ancient Greece, when Aesop wrote his famous animal fables; to the Medieval times, where authors such as Chaucer and Robert Henryson, formed their own versions of Aesopâ€™s texts; to examples as recent as George Orwellâ€™s Animal Farm. The method of using animals to tell these stories may be popular because humans are too complex to represent individual values or quirks: an animal, then, could represent a human trait even better than a human could. Henryson himself reels off a few examples of animals with such traits in the first stanza of The Cock and the Fox: the â€œbusteousâ€ (rough, rude) bear, the â€œwyldeâ€ lion, the â€œfenyeitâ€ (deceitful) and â€œcautelousâ€ (cunning) fox. The cock - in the tale, named Chauntecleer â€“ is labelled â€œgentilâ€ (noble); however, there is a viewpoint (as cited in the quote above) that Henryson is forming the comedic character of Chauntecleer to parody the â€˜nobleâ€™ knights featured in lyrics of â€œchivalric romanceâ€ popular at the time. This essay will explore Henrysonâ€™s portrayal of the cock, and the extent to which the above quote is true.
Henryson begins building the image of the noble Chauntecleer immediately â€“ in line 14, the â€œgentilâ€ term is introduced, and he is also described as â€œcourageousâ€ in line 20. When Lowrence, the â€œcraftieâ€ fox, makes an appearance, he goes to great lengths to describe Chauntecleerâ€™s dignified appearance:
â€œâ€¦ I beheld your fedderis [feathers] fair and gent,
Your beck, your breast, your hekill [hackle