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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: Mike Szelog

Location: Manchester (Amoskeag), New Hampshire, USA

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

Another version: Click here to check out Reinhard F. Hahn’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 Wrennes Tale

The Wrenne, that fowele with corage beste,
In the carre shadde hadde his neste.
And whan the sonne was to ryse,
They were atflowen, I devyse.

They wolde for there yonges fynde
Fode to keep them of sund mynde.
So flowen they two anon,
And left there childes, everichon.

Whan that they were don this queste,
Coom the fader to his neste.
Ac herde he not na sweete songes,
It were his childes lost hire tonges.

Hys childes were ne blythe, na gay,
Ac afrayed, skerryd, in greet desray.
The sothe to seye, were they stille alle,
So begon the fader to hem calle.

“By Goddes precius dignytee
Who hath yow don this vileynye?!
That ye shall all so skerryd be
As unto deeth, it semeth me!”

“Forsooth, fader,” quoden they,
“Som cryature coom heer this wey.
With michel eyn, nat fayre na brighte,
Starryd at us and skerryd us righte!”

“I prey yow, childes, telleth me,
Where this cryature might be,
He that hath this deed y-don
And is now fram this stede gon.”

“He moot go so farre gode,
We thinketh wente within that wode,
Right ther shalt thow him fynde,
Se the was to us unkynde.”

“Bi heer shallen ye abyde,
Whil I seke out his hyde,
Beth not afrayd, but with herte blythe.
I will him fynde, and that wel swythe.”

Ther apon he fley on winge,
To seke out this foule thinge.
Ther to seke thilke wight,
That had y-don this greet unright.

Now coom the Wrenne to this wodes syde,
Where this foule thing did abyde,
That given na his childes reste,
Ac skerryd them in hire own neste.

Within that wode so fayr and brighte,
He fley farre wher he mighte.
And he hath founde in this place,
A leoun stronge, by Goddes grace.

The Wrenne ne thought hym daungerous,
Se that skerryd his childes in hir hous.
The sothe to seye, he shewed ne feer,
Ac bid the leoun coom wel heer

Apon his rygge he y-lent
And fram this stede he ne went.
For sothe to this leoun he sayde
With stronge voys, eek na afrayde

“Nat so faste, by Seint John,”
Sayde Fader Wrenne anon.
“What hastow at myn hous y-don
And myne childes skerryd anon?”

Art thow so fals a fool, alas,
That thow myn nest dost a trespas?!”
The leoun noght did he carp ne saye,
Ac wente forth apon his waye.

This terryd the doughty Wrenne nat,
And apon his back he taried and sat.
“Now saye I sooth, by Seint Thomas
Ne moor wilstow come. In no cas.”

Nay, olde churl; by God, nat so,
Darstow coom back, I wisly tro,
Myn legge to-breke thyn rygge in tweye,
Ryght faste, for sothe, that I do seye!

At that he gave this churl no rest,
Ayen-wende he to his nest.
Myne childes, trowely I yow saye,
Have I this churl bi-speken this day.”

“To myn hertes gode hym don preche,
A goode lessoun by my speche.
He will agen nat coomen heer,
Lest he ne hold his owen lyf deer.”

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