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About the story
What’s with this “Wren” thing?
   The oldest extant version of the fable we are presenting here appeared in 1913 in the first volume of a two-volume anthology of Low Saxon folktales (Plattdeutsche Volksmärchen “Low German Folktales”) collected by Wilhelm Wisser (1843–1935). Read more ...


Middle English

Listen to this translation narrated with hypothetical pronunciation:

[Download mp3]

Translation and Narration: Reinhard F. Hahn

Location: Seattle, Washington, USA

Language information: [Click]Click here for different versions. >

Another version: Click here to check out Mike Szelog’s version in verse!

Help: Rest your cursor (without clicking) on difficult words or phrases to see their meanings in Modern English.

Click here for different versions. >[Period Script] [Modern Script]    

The Tale of a Corageous Wrenne

Whan Winteres myghte foth on dwindle
And oueral foweles nede kindle
Wurth myld agayn Godes Nature,
A-wakeneth ilk creature.

Oon lenten-tyme two wrennes hadde
Her nest hoom in a carres shadde
And were atflowe on uhten-tyd
The laund to scoure fer and wyd.

They wolde for there nestlyngis seke
Bilfoder that there wastme eke.
A-brode flowe they a-tweyne,
Leuand the briddes al soleyne.

The Wrenne Fadery-come spede
Repeyrede his brod to fede.
He was abayst, abayst ryght swythe.
His kindle was afrayed, not blythe!

“By Godes worth and allowaunce!
Who hath yow don swilk greet greuaunce
That ye ther sitte so afrayed
To deeth a-drad and so stunayed?”

Avoy, deer fader,” quoden they,
“An yuel un-wight heer did swey,
With michel eyn feendli and grille
Gloppyd he bynne lyk the ille!”

“I prey yow, childer, telleth me
Wher now that rascall wight might be,
Se the to yow this dede hath done.
I shal him fynde verrey sone.”

“He wisly hath not ferne fare.
For that we mote him yit ware.
He wente thider, to-ward the berne,
Earst down the hil, than umb the herne.”

Abydeth heer! Bydeth y-hid!
And beth not boistous now, I byd.
Beth not afrayed! Tristeth your alder,
Se the is doughtyer and balder.

He wil awey seke that wight.
That is his deuoyr and his plight.
Douteth ye not your sires mayn!
An-on shal he be heer agayn.”

The Wrenne flaw to-ward the berne,
Earst down the hil, than umb the herne
And ther espyed thilke wight
Se the y-don swilk greet unright:

The Leon ramand down the trade,
His mane kempe, rygge brade,
Stalkand on grimme pawes stronge,
Haland bihynd his tayle longe.

Ac the fowel shewed na feer ne wand.
He hurtled fast and un-flichand,
On the Leones rygge did alighte
Oposand him, scoldand on highte:

“I sey: atstontow, rough felawe!
Fy, kempe lift, lugand out-lawe!
Whilk nede hastow by myn hous,
Whilk tente passyng cautelous?

Whilk rightwisnesse is in that—
Afrayen childer, renegat?”
Ac the Leon ansewered noght
And wandred onward deep in thoght.

That gart the Wrenne scolde stronger
And yelle lyk a costermonger.
“Nay, nay, old cherl, nan right hastow!
Coomstow agayn … wel, in a throw …

Not yerne wold I don swilk dede,
Ac don it wold I—thow tak hede—”
And of his leggis he hef oon,
“… In a throw breke thyn ryggeboon!”

With this corageous dede y-don
Flaw homward he agayn an-on.
Childer, I lernyd him his lore.
We shullen syen him neuermore.”

© 2011, Lowlands-L · ISSN 189-5582 · LCSN 96-4226 · All international rights reserved.
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