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Introduction to the Talis of the Fyve Bestes

Introduction to The Talis of the Fyve Bestes: FOOTNOTES

1 Gray, Robert Henryson, p. 47. See also Mann, From Aesop to Reynard.

2 Fyve Bestes, ed. Kratzmann, pp. 27–28, 125; Mapstone, “Advice to Princes Tradition,” pp. 217–19; Mapstone, “The Talis of the Fyve Bestes,” pp. 243–44.

3 Fyve Bestes, ed. Kratzmann, pp. 28–29, 127–28.

4 Hary’s Wallace, ed. McDiarmid, 2:277–79.

5 Mapstone, “The Talis of the Fyve Bestes,” p. 244.

6 Mapstone, “The Talis of the Fyve Bestes,” p. 244.

7 Mapstone, “The Talis of the Fyves Bestes,” p. 245.

8 Kratzmann, Anglo-Scottish Literary Relations, pp. 94–99.

9 Bawcutt, “Bear or Boar.”

10 Mapstone, “Advice to Princes Tradition,” pp. 235, 237.

11 McAndrew, Scotland’s Historic Heraldry, pp. 19, 350.

12 Mapstone, “Advice to Princes Tradition,” p. 214, citing Stevenson and Wood, Scottish Heraldic Seals, 1:1–36; 2:223, 262–65, 270–75, 365–66, 373–78; 3:501–02, 545–47, 576, 610–20.

13 Riddy, “Dating The Book of the Howlat,” Stewart, “Holland’s ‘Howlat’”; Buke of the Howlat, ed. Hanna, pp. 31–45.

14 Mapstone, “Advice to Princes Tradition,” p. 215; compare Fyve Bestes, ed. Kratzmann, p. 32.

15 Archibald, “Declarations of ‘Entente,’” p. 210.

16 Given the discussion of heraldry above, it is worth noting that in one late fifteenth-century Scots heraldic manual (Adam Loutfut’s translation known as the Deidis of Armorie), the word “entent” makes a striking appearance in the description of the unicorn: “The wnicorn is a strenthy best / . . . / he þat first bur þaim in / armes wes stark in mony maneris, /. . . and þat he had wit in / his entent and in his hed attour [above] all vtheris to cum till / his entent” (lines 1096–11). See The Deidis of Armorie, ed. Houwen, 1:27–28.

17 Mapstone, “Advice to Princes Tradition,” p. 209.

18 Fyve Bestes, ed. Kratzmann, p. 45.

19 For further discussion of the latter tradition, see Mapstone, “Advice to Princes Tradition,” pp. 223–25.

20 Mapstone, “Advice to Princes Tradition,” pp. 226–29 (quote appears on p. 226); “The Talis of the Fyve Bestes,” p. 245.

21 Hary’s Wallace, ed. McDiarmid, 1:xiv–xxvi.

22 Mapstone, “Advice to Princes Tradition,” p. 230; Fyve Bestes, ed. Kratzmann, p. 39.

23 The manuscript’s original contents page (discussed below) reveals that Golagros and Gawane was once included in the Asloan Manuscript, but now only survives in a print of c. 1508 by Scotland’s first printers, Walter Chepman and Andro Myllar. See The Knightly Tale of Golagros and Gawane, ed. Hahn, pp. 234–77.

24 Since as free men our noble ancestors have always lived in prosperity among this people, not bound as vassals

25 Purdie, “The Search for Scottishness in Golagros and Gawane,” pp. 104–06.

26 “The Declaration of Arbroath,” ed. Ferguson and Borthwick.

27 Lancelot of the Laik and Sir Tristem, ed. Lupack.

28 Buke of the Chess, ed. van Buuren, p. 14.

29 Mapstone, “The Talis of the Fyve Bestes,” p. 248.

30 Mapstone, “The Talis of the Fyve Bestes,” p. 246.

31 Macdougall, James III, pp. 162–63, 319–38.

32 Mapstone, “The Talis of the Fyve Bestes,” p. 247.

33 Fyve Bestes, ed. Kratzmann, p. 27; Mapstone, “Advice to Princes Tradition,” pp. 250–51.

34 Quotations from BC in the list are taken from Buke of the Chess, ed. van Buuren, pp. 7, 54, 12, 6.

35 In these instances both texts share the same rhyming word, “done” in their previous lines.

36 Mapstone, “Advice to Princes Tradition,” pp. 236, 254.

37 Cunningham, “The Asloan Manuscript,” pp. 121–27.

38 Asloan Manuscript, ed. Craigie, 1:xi–xv.

39 Items i–xii are part of the same text, xii (bis) has to be added, and liiii removed.

40 Van Buuren, “John Asloan, an Edinburgh Scribe”; The Buke of the Sevyne Sagis, ed. van Buuren, pp. 26–30; “John Asloan and his Manuscript”; Buke of the Chess, ed. van Buuren, pp. xiii–xvi.

41 Wingfield, “Towards an Edition of the Scottish Troy Book.”

42 Van Buuren, “John Asloan, an Edinburgh Scribe,” p. 371.

43 Van Buuren, The Buke of the Sevyne Sagis, p. 27.

44 Holland, The Buke of the Howlat, ed. Hanna, p. 8.

45 Cunningham, “The Asloan Manuscript,” p. 128.

46 Cunningham, “The Asloan Manuscript,” p. 129.

47 Cunningham, “The Asloan Manuscript,” p. 129.

48 Van Buuren, “John Asloan and his Manuscript,” pp. 49–50.

49 Mapstone, “Introduction: Older Scots Literature and the Sixteenth Century,” p. 177 (italics Mapstone’s).

50 Holland, The Buke of the Howlat, ed. Hanna, p. 4. I would note too that all of the surviving items in this section of the manuscript were copied on the same paperstock, and it is likely that those missing items were too.

51 See Martin, Kingship and Love, pp. 103–29; quotation on p. 104).

52 For further discussion of this context, see Riddy, “Dating The Book of the Howlat”; Stewart, “Holland’s ‘Howlat’”; Holland, The Buke of the Howlat, ed. Hanna, pp. 31–45.

53 Mapstone, “Advice to Princes Tradition,” p. 213.

54 “The Unicornis Tale” appears too in The Oxford Book of Late Medieval Verse and Prose, ed. Gray, pp. 156–59.

55 The Asloan Manuscript, ed. Craigie, 2:127–40.

56 Fyve Bestes, ed. Kratzmann, pp. 89–103.

57 Holland, The Buke of the Howlat, ed. Hanna, p. 55.

58 Holland, The Buke of the Howlat, ed. Hanna, p. 55; Buke of the Chess, ed. van Buuren, p. cxliii; The Buke of the Sevyne Sagis, ed. van Buuren, p. 203.

59 Holland, The Buke of the Howlat, ed. Hanna, p. 55.

60 The Buke of the Sevyne Sagis, ed. van Buuren, p. 203; Asloan Manuscript, ed. Craigie, passim.

61 Holland, The Buke of the Howlat, ed. Hanna, pp. 56–57; The Buke of the Sevyne Sagis, ed. van Buuren, p. 201.

Despite the growth of Older Scots literary studies over the last thirty years, the Talis of the Fyve Bestes (FB) remains a little-studied and underappreciated poem. It is, however, worthy of far greater attention and scrutiny. Although on the surface a collection of disparate tales, each with a different subject matter, the tales are united by a set of common themes, most notably good governance (both of the self and others), and independence and sovereignty, effected by the subtle and deliberate changes made to source material. Across the collection we find a self-conscious concern with the notion of tale-telling and importance of good judgment (or “entent”), and this is in turn reflected for readers by the challenges posed by often surprising morals. As a collection of tales told by animals it has affinities with better-known story-collections such as Henryson’s Fables. The Fyve Bestes is, however, distinctive in having animals tell stories about humans.

The poem survives uniquely in the sixteenth-century Asloan Manuscript (Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, MS 16500 olim Acc. 4243), but this copy is defective, and we therefore lack its beginning. It nevertheless appears to have begun with a Prologue (perhaps in the form of a dream vision) in which a lion-king holds court at a beast-parliament; four royal counselors (a horse, hart, unicorn, and boar) come to offer advice, which they give in the form of a tale. Their tales are followed by the speech of a fifth beast, a wolf. Each tale is given a moralitas, and a final moralitas allegorizes the work as a whole.

Douglas Gray has written of the widespread interest in animals in the medieval period:
A delight in the plentitude and variety of natural species [in the medieval world] is reflected in the thousands of insects, birds and animals which are scattered over the margins of medieval illuminated manuscripts, in the menagerie of creatures which inhabit the capitals, bosses, misericords and bench-ends of churches, in the crowds of birds who surround the goddess Nature in Chaucer’s Parlement of Foules and the animals who fill the forest in his Book of the Duchess.1
Late-medieval Scottish literary culture proves no exception to this rule. Alongside the aforementioned Fables of Henryson, animals also appear in such works as Richard Holland’s Buke of the Howlat, William Dunbar’s Thrissil and the Rose, and David Lyndsay’s Testament of the Papyngo. Animal fables were widely used as vehicles of instruction, both on the pulpit and in schools, and whilst almost always short and sweet they often end with deceptively simple but in fact enigmatic morals that require readers (both medieval and modern) to work hard in interpreting them. This is certainly the case with the Fyve Bestes.


(1) “The Horsis Tale”

The horse recounts a version of a popular exemplum in which two travelers, here (but not always) brothers, have to choose between two paths — the one fair, the other appearing to be perilous. The wise man does not wish to take the fair way but follows the fool in doing so. The pair subsequently fall in with thieves, are apprehended, and sentenced to death. In the moralitas, the exemplum of the two brothers is allegorized to illustrate the dangers the body poses to the soul and readers are urged, as they are in the concluding moralitas, and the moralitas to “The Unicornis Tale” and “Baris Tale,” to repent of and refrain from sin and instead follow a virtuous path to heaven. As Gregory Kratzmann and Sally Mapstone note,2 the exemplum of the two travelers appears in various collections, including the late thirteenth-century Latin Gesta Romanorum (later translated on more than one occasion into English) and an earlier collection by Etienne de Bourbon, as well as Vincent of Beauvais’ Speculum Morale, John Bromard’s Summa Predicantium, the Alphabetum Narratioun (or in English, Alphabet of Tales), and John Ireland’s c. 1490 Scottish Meroure of Wyssdome (2:141–43). As outlined in the explanatory notes, “The Horsis Tale” bears similarities with each of these versions, but differs to such an extent that none of the above texts can be claimed as an immediate source. It is nevertheless interesting to note that the Alphabet also contains the story of Alexander and the philosopher told in “The Baris Tale.” Although again not a direct source, the sharing of two tales across both collections is striking.

(2) “The Hartis Tale”

Although defective at its start, this tale begins with praise for William Wallace and his defense of Scotland, justifying the subsequent place he apparently gained in heaven. The remainder of the tale documents the ascent of Wallace’s soul to heaven, as revealed by an angel to a hermit in a vision. As Kratzmann,3 McDiarmid,4 and Mapstone5 have each noted, “The Hartis Tale” bears similarities with Blind Hary’s Wallace (c. 1476–78) (book 10, lines 1238–1301) and Walter Bower’s earlier Scotichronicon (book 12, chapter 8), but it also contains material not found in either of these sources, including the accompanying angel. Mapstone has found analogues for the angel in a Spanish account of a vision of the soul of Richard I the Lionheart (the Libro de Patronio of Don Juan Manuel) and in earlier accounts of the ascensions to heaven of the souls of St. Bernard and St. Thomas Becket, and she suggests how — even though none of these works were a direct source — their “various elements could [nevertheless have been] mixed into the Scottish tradition of Wallace’s heavenly ascent.”6

The moralitas is rather mixed. The first six lines assert the moral worth of fighting in a just cause, but the final two lines assert the value of peace. As Mapstone again observes, the message is thus “two-fold, but rather blurred: a just cause, and presumably particularly Scottish independence, is worth fighting for, but peace is of infinite value too, no matter what the popular feeling may be.”7 This tale’s key theme of independence and sovereignty is repeated in “The Baris Tale.”

(3) “The Unicornis Tale”

“The Unicornis Tale” recounts how, in his youth, a boy named Gundulfus threw a stone and broke a cockerel’s thigh bone. He leaves home to study and returns on the night before he is due to travel to Kent to receive a benefice. His family and friends convince him to stay rather than travel that night, promising that the cock’s crows will wake him in the morning. The cock refuses to crow as an act of revenge and Gundulfus loses his position.

The source of this tale is a twelfth-century Latin anti-clerical satire by Nigel Wireker, the Speculum Stultorum (“Mirror for Fools”). The work was widely known in the Middle Ages, and is alluded to by Chaucer in his Nun’s Priest’s Tale:
I have wel rad in ‘Daun Burnel the Asse,’
Among his vers, how that ther was a cok,
For that a preestes sone yaf hym a knok
Upon his leg whil he was yong and nyce,
He made hym for to lese his benefice.
(CT VII[B2] 3312–116)
In its mock-heroic depiction of the relationship between the cock and his wife, “The Unicornis Tale” draws on the latter text and other Canterbury Tales,8 as well as upon on a number of Henryson’s Fables, including “The Cock and the Fox,” “The Lion and the Mouse,” and “The Wolf and the Lamb.”

The moralitas is surprising for a number of reasons. First of all it differs from that in the original Speculum Stultorum where the cock is blamed for the downfall of Gundulfus and ruin of his family. Secondly, the apportioning of blame in “The Unicornis Tale” to Gundulfus is at odds with the fact that he was apparently only protecting his father’s goods — and livelihood — when, as a child, he wounded the cock.

(4) “The Baris Tale”

There has been some confusion over whether this title refers to a bear or boar, but boar is now generally accepted.9 The Boar’s story of Alexander the Great’s attempt to conquer the town of Lapsat appeared first in Valerius Maximus’ Dictorum et Factorum Memorabilium, a collection of exempla produced around 30 or 31 CE, and also in the De Ludo Scaccorum by Jacobus de Cessolis, a Latin treatise of c. 1300 which uses the game of chess as a starting point for discussing social classes and the duties of noblemen. This latter work was translated and printed by Caxton (The Game and Playe of the Chesse, 1474), and a Scots version appears along with The Fyve Bestes in the Asloan manuscript (fols. 41r–76v), although the manuscript is defective just after the start of the relevant exemplum. English versions appear too in the Alphabet of Tales (an analogue for the earlier “Horsis Tale”), and in Hoccleve’s Regiment of Princes (1410–11). Mapstone showed that neither the Alphabet nor Caxton’s Game has much in common with the Fyve Bestes, but demonstrated that there are some similarities with the account in Hoccleve’s Regiment, including the shared use of “Lapsat” (Regiment, line 2304) for the town’s name (in Caxton it is “Lapsare” and “Lampsascus” in Valerius), lack of name for the philosopher, similar use of direct dialogue, and some resemblances in phrasing (Regiment, line 2305, FB, line 315; Regiment, line 2306, FB, line 325; Regiment, line 2309; FB, line 321).10 There is, however, no evidence for a direct relationship between the two texts and “The Baris Tale” contains a number of unique features that focus on themes of independence and sovereignty in a manner reminiscent of the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath, Barbour’s Bruce and the late fifteenth-century Scots romance, Golagros and Gawane. In the moralitas the importance of a king sticking to his word — a point first made by the clerk within the tale — is repeated.

Additional Scottish analogues include Sir Gilbert Hay’s c. 1460 Buik of the King Alexander the Conquerour and the anonymous (c. 1460s) Lancelot of the Laik. The same exemplum appears in Hay’s romance (lines 4892–5228). Here, however, the town Alexander attempts to conquer is Athens, and the philosopher is Aristotle; the exemplum is also much longer and related in far more detail. The explanatory notes detail how the anonymous clerk’s advice to Alexander is matched in Lancelot of the Laik by the advice given to Arthur by his wise clerk Amytans.

(5) “The Wolfis Tale”

Unlike the other four tales, this is not so much an exemplum as an instance of tale-telling for false ends. In an attempt to replace the lion-king’s current royal counselors with his own factional alliance, the wolf suggests that the king should consume venysoun, wyld meit, and gret bestis (i.e., the other four beasts who advise the king). After recognizing his true purpose, the king exiles the wolf from the court. A concluding moral is then offered for the poem as a whole. The four beasts are here again allegorized as the four Cardinal Virtues (Prudence, Justice, Magnanimity, and Temperance) which should inhere in a monarch.

Before exploring the key concerns of these tales in further detail, it is worth pausing to consider the choice of tellers and the way each beast is described. Before each tale begins the narrator takes time to describe, in a notably stylized manner, the physical appearance of each animal and the courteous manner in which they approach the lion-king. First of all, each portrait focuses on the animal’s head, and emphasis is placed either upon their rank or inherent good nature. The hart is thus described as “ryall” (line 58) and “gentill” (lines 127–28). The narrator also pays particular attention to colors and materials — the hart’s antlers are “[o]f polist gold and silver birnist bricht” (line 60), for instance, whilst the boar’s bristles and hair were “[o]f reid gold” (lines 282, 283). Such descriptions might well remind us both of the illustrations and miniatures of animals found in richly decorated medieval bestiaries and also of the use of animals in heraldic art. It is likely that the poet was recalling something of these visual images in his descriptions. The emphasis on the redness of the boar might, for instance, recall boars’ heads gules (heraldic red) found on arms such as those of the Elphinstone family, whilst the different colored horns (or tynes) of the hart might recall those arms where the deer also displays different colored horns (described as attired).11 It is, however, much harder to match up the appearance and description of animals in FB with known bestiary or heraldic traditions. As Sally Mapstone has discussed, the horse, hart, unicorn, boar, and lion all appear on fifteenth-century Scottish arms and seals, including (in the case of the horse, lion, and unicorn) on royal seals, and sometimes two or three of the animals in FB appear together, but we are yet to find an instance where all five — or even six beasts (if we include the wolf) — appear together.12 It nevertheless remains possible that some veiled allusion to particular Scottish families or events lies behind the choice of animals. A central heraldic excursus celebrating the service of the Douglas family to Robert Bruce and the cause of Scottish Independence appears in Robert Holland’s mid-fifteenthcentury Buke of the Howlat,13 for instance. This suggests that a similar story might lie behind the choice of animals in the FB, but it is of course equally possible (as Mapstone has suggested) that “the poet is using heraldic images that had widespread distribution not to disguise specific nobles or families but to invoke the idea of innate nobility and importance of these counselors to the king.”14 At the very least, the descriptions demonstrate the poet’s interest both in self-conscious artifice and in notions of nobility and governance, themes developed throughout each of the tales.


Much Older Scots and Middle English literature is characterized by a notable level of selfconsciousness and thematic interest in poetry and fiction per se, and FB is no exception. Of particular note first of all is the poem’s prominent first-person narrator who offers himself both as an eye-witness to and interpreter of each individual tale. As observed above, it is likely that the poem began with some sort of dream-vision prologue in which the narrator first encountered the lion-king’s beast-parliament, and throughout the rest of the poem this narrator comments on the action as it unfolds. In each moralitas he is keen to stress his own allegorical interpretation of the preceding tale (lines 43–44, 119, 269, 353, 405). He also depicts himself as a witness of the unfolding action and offers his initial impressions of it. The unicorn is thus described as “so sweit unto my sicht” (line 129) and “it did me sic delyte” (line 133), the boar is “ane blyth sicht” (line 281), and the narrator “thocht” the wolf’s “habit” was “of cottoun gray” (line 370). In addition, the narrator occasionally interrupts each individual tale to offer a comment on the action. And so, he begins “The Hartis Tale” by stating “I hald in bretta[ne] . . . / That ever was . . . / William Wallace worth . . . / And that I trowe be rich[t resoun]” (lines 63–65, 70), and, in keeping with the mock-heroic tone of the rest of the tale, the narrator steps into “The Unicornis Tale” after the cock has been wounded to ask “Quhat will ye mar? He was bot slane or schent” (line 149). Elsewhere the narrator is keen to assert the authoritative nature of the tales that he reports. In writing of the hermit who witnesses Wallace’s heavenly ascent, for instance, he refers to the “autentik writ we reid” (line 76), and he ends “The Unicornis Tale” by stating “This was the tale that he tald thar, / I coppyt it with all my cure” (lines 287–88). In this final comment, the narrator most definitively shores up the authority of his narrative by suggesting that he is drawing not just on oral narratives but also on a written source.

A concern with authority, meaning, and intentions runs throughout the tales themselves, and this is emphasized via the repetition across several tales of the word “entent.” In defending himself the fool thus asks “quha wald trow a wysman wald assent / And I a fule so sone to myne entent?” (lines 29–30), and proves that his wiser brother “left his awne entent” (line 35); the cock is described as “Clerast of voce and wyest in his entent” (line 161); the shamed Gundulfus as “[a]ne hevy man forsuth in his entent” (line 256); Alexander as “in entent to cast the cite [of Lapsat] doun” (line 315); and a king is urged to consider his speech lest it “suld him grief or muf in his entent” (line 359). Elizabeth Archibald has drawn attention to the significance of the word “entent” in Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde where it is used by Pandarus and of Criseyde “to invite interpretation as an indication either of insincerity or of sexual desire and intrigue,” in turn raising questions about Chaucer’s own aims in telling the story.15 Although not used in quite the same way in FB, the repeated use of the term does nevertheless draw attention to the way in which the poem is self-conscious about its own fictional status and concerned with the ethics of story-telling.16

The imitation of Chaucer’s Nun’s Priests’s Tale and several of Chaucer’s other Canterbury Tales in “The Unicornis Tale” is part of the poem’s self-consciousness, and readers are furthermore forced to pay greater attention to the unfolding tales by careful verbal patterning that unites the different tales, in particular the repetition of key words and phrases such as “entent” (30, 35, 161, 256, 315, and 359), God’s “grace” (lines 37, 78), “bocht and sauld” / “sauld and bocht” (lines 116, 416), “sely saull” (lines 46, 123), a “fair” or “farest way” (lines 1, 209), and an injunction that “A kingis word in more effect suld be / Than ony of lawar degre” or “More precious in worschipe of his crowne / Than gud or gold or ony wallit toune” (lines 333–34, 355–56). The royal judgment of the two brothers and thieves at the beginning of the poem is also mirrored by the royal judgement of the wolf at the end, and the king’s taking of advice from his counselors here further parallels Alexander’s eventual concilliar approach in “The Baris Tale.” This lends a certain circularity to the poem that would, no doubt, have been further apparent had the original dream-prologue survived.

Notable also is the formal shift in “The Hartis Tale” from broadly decasyllabic couplets elsewhere in the poem to eight-line largely octosyllabic stanzas here rhyming ababbaab for lines 63 to 118, that then change again in the moralitas to two eight-line stanzas of rough decasyllabic couplets. Reminiscent, perhaps, of the formal changes in works by Henryson such as Orpheus and Eurydice, where the seven-line stanzas of the tale (rhyming ababbcc) are swapped in the moralitas for couplets, this moralitas has a notably mixed message. As noted above, the first six lines assert the moral worth of fighting in a just cause, but the final two lines assert the value of peace. This parallels the unexpected nature of other morals throughout the poem, such as that to “The Unicornis Tale.” In the original Speculum Stultorum the cock is blamed for the downfall of Gundulfus and ruin of his family, whilst the apportioning of blame to Gundulfus in “The Unicornis Tale” is at odds with the fact that he was apparently only protecting his father’s goods — and livelihood — when, as a child, he wounded the cock. The concluding moralitas also throws up challenges. Here, after the preceding individual series of allegorizations, the wolf and four other beasts are allegorized as the vice of covetousness and four cardinal virtues, respectively, the latter of which must inhere in a monarch. It is, however, not easy to match the four virtues with the four tales. The boar, for instance, usually associated with ferocity in battle, does not easily sit as an emblem of “continence” (temperance, line 410), even if within the tale Alexander comes to demonstrate such moderation, and “The Unicornis Tale” of the cock’s revenge on Gundulfus seems to represent the opposite of “magnanimite” (line 409). Thus, as Mapstone observes, “we should not look for a close match between the representation of the four beasts and the virtues to which they are ultimately assigned,” nor should we search for an always clear-cut relationship between tale and moral.17 Instead, the FB author should be seen as challenging us in the manner of Henryson, who repeatedly provides his Fables and Orpheus and Eurydice with surprising morals that encourage us to take responsibility for discovering the tale’s true “entent.”

Another notable part of the poem’s self-consciousness is the thematization of tale-telling at notably significant points in the narrative. The central lines of the FB thus document precisely the point where the cock refuses to tell the time of day: “Sone come the tyme that he suld say his voce, / The hour yeid our, the cok he held him clos” (lines 221–22). The cock’s silence here, and attempt in turn to silence his wife, contrast with his earlier proud crowing and the singing of Gundulfus, and look ahead to the message delivered to Alexander in “The Baris Tale” and to readers in its concluding moral (lines 354–60). Finally, in “The Wolfis Tale,” the wolf begins addressing the lion-king by disparaging and turning away from fiction by saying, “Soverane lord, I can nocht fabillis fene” (line 377) and himself claiming to tell the truth by complaining on behalf of the poor. The wolf’s truth is, however, revealed as a falsehood, and in his exile we see what Kratzmann has neatly termed “a vindication of poetry, and of the allegorical mode in particular.”18 This in turn encourages us to think more carefully about the moral and ethical import of the poem’s two other main themes: independence and sovereignty, and good governance (both of the self and others).

Themes of independence and sovereignty appear in “The Hartis Tale” and “The Baris Tale.” The former’s account of Wallace’s career and posthumous ascent to heaven draws upon Bower’s Scotichronicon and Hary’s Wallace, as well as upon a now-lost exempla tradition (originally concerned with the death of the English king, Richard the Lionheart) for details such as the accompanying angel.19 The tale proposes that Wallace fought in a just cause and was rewarded for this after death. In comparing his death to that of the English martyrs, Saints Edmund and Thomas, the FB author (following Hary) furthermore similarly transforms the Scottish hero into a political and saintly martyr and ends the tale with a strong assertion of how hard Wallace worked to maintain Scottish independence (lines 113–16). Sally Mapstone has suggested that, like Hary’s Wallace, this tale might in part have been designed to counteract an English literary tradition, represented by such works as Caxton’s Chronicles of England (first printed in 1480 and again in 1482), in which Wallace was fiercely reviled. She argues, furthermore, that the tale’s appropriation of sources “originally told about an English monarch to the cause of a Scottish hero may quite possibly have been originally a deliberately aggressive and slighting borrowing.”20 It is nevertheless difficult to ascertain whether or not “The Hartis Tale” is of topical significance. Hary’s Wallace (c. 1476–78), from which “The Hartis Tale” draws quite significantly, has been interpreted as a piece of literary propaganda directed against James III’s recent rapprochements towards the English.21 It is possible that “The Hartis Tale” speaks to similar concerns, but it might equally, as Mapstone and Kratzmann have suggested, speak either to “the period around 1488 and the new monarchy of James IV when quite a body of advice literature was composed or recopied,” or stand “as an oblique warning to James IV’s policy of rapprochement with England, symbolized by the royal marriage [of James IV to Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII] of 1503.”22 The poem’s uncertain dating makes firm conclusions impossible and unwise, but the poet’s interest in themes of independence and sovereignty remains undeniable, as we see again in “The Baris Tale.”

“The Baris Tale” of Alexander’s failed attempt to conquer the city of Lapsat stems from the exempla tradition, but also contains a number of unique elements that focus on themes of independence and sovereignty in a manner reminiscent of other Older Scots literary texts. When faced with Alexander’s demands, the citizens of Lapsat respond with the following message:
That quhill we leif we will this toune defend                                                                             while we live
In sic fredome as our antecessouris                                                                                                  ancestors
Has left till us and till this toune of ouris.                                                                                           to; ours
Erar we cheis with worschipe for to de                                                       We would rather choose; to die
Than for to leif in subjectioun to be.”
And in this querell maid thaim ilkone boune                                                            they each made ready
With ane assent to defend this toune.                                                                                 common consent
(lines 302–08)
In its use of terms such as “fredome,” “subjectioun,” and “querell” this response recalls the nationalistic focus of “The Hartis Tale,” and the latter two words directly echo lines 114 and 120 of that tale. The rhetoric of freedom and appeal to the town’s lengthy sovereignty also strongly parallel Golagros’ refusal to accept Arthur’s demands of homage and overlordship in the Older Scots romance Golagros and Gawane (c. 1475–1508), which originally appeared in the Asloan Manuscript with FB:23
Sen hail our doughty elderis has bene endurand
Thriuandly in this thede, vnchargit as thril,24
If I for obeisance or boist to bondage me bynde,
I was worthy to be
Hingit heigh on ane tre
That ilk creature might se
To waif with þe wynd.
[. . . .]

I will nogth bow me ane-bak for berne [any person] that is borne,
Quhill I may my wit wald [wit possess].
I think my fredome to hald
As my eldaris of ald
Hes done me beforne.
(lines 436–42, 451–55)
As Rhiannon Purdie notes,25 for a Scottish audience such language is likely to have recalled the sentiments and phrasing of two key Older Scots texts: the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath and freedom rhetoric of Barbour’s Bruce (1.225–32) written c. 1375–76. The former text asserts the intention of Scots to fight to the death to maintain their freedom, and the same determination is expressed repeatedly throughout The Bruce:
...for, as long as a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be subjected to the lordship of the English. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.26

A, fredome is a noble thing,
Fredome mays [lets] man to haiff liking,
Fredome all solace to man giffis,
He levys at es yat frely levys.
A noble hart may haiff nane es
Na ellys nocht yat may him ples
Gyff fredome failȝhe, for fre liking
Is ȝharnyt [desired] our all oyer thing.
. . . .
And thryldome [thralldom] is weill wer [worse] yan deid,
For quhill a thryll his lyff may leid
It merrys [afflicts] him body and banys,
And dede anoyis him bot anys (Barbour’s Bruce, 1.225–32, 269–72).
In its engagement with themes of sovereignty and national identity — and use of a lexis common to many late fourteenth and fifteenth-century Scottish texts — FB should be seen very much as a part of a distinct strand of Scotland’s literary tradition that emerges out of and reflects upon the issues inherent in prior and continuing periods of Anglo-Scots conflict.

In the next episode, Alexander is forced to abandon his conquest of the town after making a rash vow to his former tutor in front of his royal peers. Knowing that the anonymous clerk will ask him to spare the town, Alexander commands him:
Desyre na thing at me this daye for quhy                                                     Ask nothing of me today since
Quhat evir ye ask that thing I will deny
And in the contrar wirk at all my micht.                          And work with all my power to do the opposite
(lines 329–31)
In response, the clerk both takes Alexander at his word and turns those words back around, using them to his own advantage:
I thank your hienes and I ask no more
Bot hold the purpos that ye ar cummyn for,                                           Stick to the purpose you came for
To sla yone folk and to distroye yone toune,                                                                                               kill
To do no grace to cast yone wallis doune.                               To offer no mercy in razing down the walls
No may ye cheis to lat your wordis stand                                                      choose to let you words stand
And tyne the cost or tak this toune on hand                                                          lose the expense; capture
And brek your word before this riall rowte.
(lines 337–43)
Faced with the choice of sticking to his word and the cost of losing the conquest, or reneging upon his word and being shamed in front of his peers, Alexander decides to spare the citizens of Lapsat after all.

In the tale’s moralitas, the same lesson about the importance of a king adhering to his word is repeated:
Nowe be this taile it may richt wele be sene
Ane kyngis word in till effect suld bene                                                                            should be of value
More precious in worschipe of his crowne                                                                                            honor
Than gud or gold or ony wallit toune.                                                                            goods; walled town
Richt sad of langage suld he be ane kyng                                                                              sober of speech
And weile avysit or he said the thing                                                  well-advised before saying anything
That suld him greif or muf in his entent:                                                           make him change his mind
Erar speike nocht than speike and syne repent.             Better to not speak than speak and then repent
(lines 353–60)
Although proverbial, the message is nevertheless strikingly similar to the lesson given to Arthur by Amytans in the Older Scots romance Lancelot of the Laik (c. 1460–70):
And of thi wordis beis trew and stable,
Spek not to mych, nore be not vareable.
O kingis word shuld be o kingis bonde
And said it is, a kingis word shuld stond.
O kingis word, among our faderis old,
Al-out more precious and more sur was hold
Than was the oth or seel of any wight.
(lines 1671–78)27
It is also very similar to the opening of the same exemplum in the Asloan Manuscript’s Buke of the Chess:
A kingis word in-till effect suld stand
Mor than the aith of ony fre merchand.
Alexander he tynt the tovne of Lapsat,
For rekleslye he swor in his estait.
(lines 357–60)28
That the moral is repeated twice within the one tale demonstrates how keen the FB poet was to stress this piece of princely advice, but he immediately follows it with a caveat:
Or gif a kyng has said or done amys                                                                                                   if; wrong
That to justice oucht grevand is,                                                                     Anything that; at all grievous
It is more worschipe till his hie estait
For to revoke than to be obstinat.                                                                                    rescind [his speech]
(lines 361–64)
Sally Mapstone’s interpretation of these lines is worth quoting in full:
The implication is that a monarch and justice are separate entities, that a king can be judged against an absolute of justice as much as anyone. In Scottish advice literature it is of course common to find remonstrances being made to the king as the chief representative of justice that he should keep his house in order; yet the inclusion of a similar argument here is intriguing, particularly since it in practice contradicts the events of the tale, where the king does have to keep his word. Clearly the poet felt it necessary to establish, however gently, the potential fallibility of the monarch; but having done so, we should observe that he also shows that the power of correction is seen to reside within the king himself, rather than being imposed from the outside.29
We might note, too, that repeated minorities throughout fifteenth- (and indeed sixteenth-) century Scotland led to a concern that the king should be able to revoke decisions made during his youth once he assumed adult power. This again need not imply that the moralitas to “The Baris Tale” held any particular topical significance, but it may be that the poem had renewed significance for its scribe, John Asloan, when copied sometime between c. 1513 and 1530 — either during the minority of James V, or very early in his adult rule.

The advice to princes elements of “The Baris Tale” are just one instance of a concern with good governance — both private and public. With regard to the former — rule of the self — we find several instances of characters seemingly unable to govern themselves, including the two brothers in “The Horsis Tale,” the fool “[t]hat with no ressoun rewlit wald . . . be” (line 25) and the wiseman who “left the wit that God gaf him of grace” for “affectioun naturale of his blud” (brotherly love) (lines 37, 22); Gundulfus and his friends who mistakenly place their trust in the cock being able to wake them up and fill themselves with so much “michti ale and wyne” that they “slepis as ony swyne” (lines 213–14); and Alexander who, as we have already seen, makes a rash vow and is quick to anger in response to the citizens of Lapsat (“he was amovit so,” line 309). This latter example reminds us of the close relationship between self and public governance — an ability to govern the former often being indicative of an inability to govern others — and it is therefore no surprise to find a complementary concern across the poem with good public governance. Small scale examples of public governance include the “lord for his regioun” who died “[i]n his defence” (lines 107–08) and was seen ascending to heaven with Wallace in “The Hartis Tale,” as well as the depiction of the cock as lord of his own particular domestic space in “The Unicornis Tale” (lines 172–74). The latter tale’s rather surprising moralitas is also directly addressed to those who hold a position of power and responsibility for others. Here the FB author challenges his readers and offers the cock as a type of the poor who suffer under the oppression of tyrannous rulers. As Mapstone suggests, however, the fact that the story is set in Kent (line 135) ensures that it again bears no obvious direct relationship to contemporary Scottish politics.30

After “The Baris Tale,” the poem ends on a strongly advisory note in “The Wolfis Tale” and concluding moralitas. In the former tale, Alexander was redeemed when he showed himself able to accept advice from his former tutor and royal peers, and in the final tale it appears as though the lion-king has similarly learned from the tales told by his royal peers. After listening carefully to the wolf’s complaint, the king realizes that the wolf is urging him to replace (“ete,” line 390) the members of his council (the four other beasts) with his own faction of wolves. After consulting them, and learning further that it is in fact the wolf and his allies who are ravaging the realm, the king exiles the wolf and the poem segues neatly into the concluding moralitas which impresses the importance of a king eschewing covetousness and espousing the four Cardinal Virtues. This time the neat juxtaposition of tale and moral suggests both that the king is receiving appropriate advice from his counselors, and also that he contains within himself the capacity for selfgovernance and regulation. As such, the poem concludes on a strikingly positive note with an image of good self and public governance.

As with the other elements of advice to princes in the FB, it is possible that this final episode bears some kind of topical importance. The factional challenge posed to the king by the wolf and his allies could speak to several episodes in fifteenth-century Scottish history when the monarch was challenged by powerful members of the nobility — one thinks, for instance, of the magnate rebellion against James III in 1482, known as the Lauder Bridge crisis, or even that of 1488, leading to James III’s death, where the rebels attracted support of the future James IV,31 and it is also possible that the wolf’s disaffection with the lion-king’s counselors — described as his “cosingis” or kin (line 390) — might refer to some specific anxieties about the members of a king’s council, but such topicality (if intended) is certainly never pursued and the poem ends, as do the previous moralitates, on a largely universal note, by urging the need to prepare well in this life for the next. As such, we might follow Sally Mapstone and “conclude that the poem is deliberately generalized in much of its advice, though distinguished by its nationalism, and not aimed at a particular monarch or a particular state of events.”32


The above discussion has made clear that whilst the poem may speak to particular events in late fifteenth-century Scottish politics, the generalized tone of its advice and enigmatic heraldic references suggest that it has no firm desire to do so. As such, there is very little internal evidence to help us date the poem, and just as little external evidence. A rough terminus a quo of 1476–78 might be established from the poem’s use of Hary’s Wallace, and it was certainly composed before its copying into the Asloan manuscript sometime between 1513 and 1530, but it is difficult to be much more precise that this. Parallels with other Older Scots works such as Henryson’s Fables and Orpheus and Eurydice (c. 1470s–90s), Lancelot of the Laik (c. 1460–70), Golagros and Gawane (c. 1475–1508) and The Buke of the Chess (late fifteenth /early sixteenth century) are suggestive, but since none of these works can themselves be dated with any certainty, we can best position FB within a 40-year window of the last two decades of the fifteenth century and the first two decades of the sixteenth. A more specific dating must await further textual and linguistic study.

The poem’s authorship is similarly unknown but a number of parallels have been detected between it and another poem in the Asloan manuscript, The Buke of the Chess (BC).33 This late fifteenth- /early sixteenth-century text is a Scots verse translation of Jacobus de Cessolis’ De Ludo Scaccorum, a Latin treatise of c. 1300 which uses the game of chess as a starting point for discussing social classes and the duties of noblemen. In addition to sharing a concern with advice to princes, both works also contain the exemplum (albeit defective in BC) of Alexander’s failed attempt to conquer the town of Lapsat, as well as a penchant for parataxis, and use of similar phrasing:
• Takin thai war . . . . (FB, line 10)
Takyne he was (BC, line 121)34

• Nowe be this tale ye sall wele understand (FB, line 269)
Be thir thre ȝe sall weile vnderstand (BC, line 1570)

• Thir worthy folk war avysit sone (FB, lines 299–300)
This worthy prince he was avysit sone (BC, line 282)35

• Erar we cheis with worschipe for to de
Than for to leif in subjectioun to be (FB, lines 305–06)

. . . erar for to de
Than for to leif and to behald and se (BC, lines 111–12)

• Now be this wolf schortly be myne avys (FB, line 405)
. . . be myne awys (BC, line 97)
Mapstone also observes that the only instances in the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue of the phrase “in till / to effect” occur in the Lapsat exemplum in FB (line 354) and BC (line 357) and that the Prologue to BC “has a slightly neo-Chaucerian or neo-Lydgatian tone, which, though not the adept mimicry of the unicorn’s tale, might again prompt the suggestion of common authorship with The Talis of the Fyve Bestes.”36 The influence of Chaucer is, however, commonly detected across much Older Scots literature, and short parallel phrases are a slippery basis on which to base common authorship. As such, the similarities between FB and BC can — for now — be taken no further, but they remain tantalizing examples of the correspondences one can detect between works that survive in the same manuscript witness.


FB appears on fols. 229r–35v of the Asloan Manuscript, after Richard Holland’s Buke of the Howlat (fols. 213r–28v) and before Henryson’s “The Two Mice” (fols. 236r–39v). There is a leaf missing after the Howlat, so we lack the prologue with which FB most probably began and the beginning of “The Horsis Tale.” A good number of lines in “The Hartis Tale” are also lost or defective as a result of a tear and subsequent loss of most of the top half of fol. 230.

The manuscript’s 307 surviving leaves are now individually mounted within a nineteenth-century gold-tooled leather binding (411 x 300mm), identified on the spine as ‘SCOTTISH / TRACTS / IN PROSE & VERSE / MS. TEMP. JAC. V.’ The original pages are 235 x 170mm wide, and text throughout is written in a single column of 29–34 lines, with no frame or guide-lines. The written space is 200–15 x 125–50mm (prose) / 95–100mm (verse). No catchwords or quire signatures survive but Cunningham successfully reconstructed the collation of the volume’s surviving leaves from an analysis of its different watermarked papers: i16, ii–vi12, vii16, viii16(–16), ix16, x16 (–1, 5, 12, 16), xi14, xiii–xiv16, xv16(–6), xvi16, xvii16 (–1, 16), xviii–xix16, xix16, xx16 (–1, 16), xxi16.37 Soiled pages at the front and back of gatherings suggest that they were once unbound for quite some time.

The manuscript contains two series of contents pages, one (fol. i) in the hand of a later owner, Alexander Boswell (1775–1822), the other (fols. iii–v) in the hand of the manuscript’s scribe, John Asloan.38 The latter contains 71 numbered items,39 roughly divided into prose in the first half of the manuscript and verse in the second. 34 items are now lost, and seven are imperfect.

The scribe, John Asloan, signs fols. 40v, 76v, 92v, 166v, 209v, 228v, 235v, 290r, and 300v. The entire manuscript is in his hand, with the exception of fol. 53 which was replaced in the seventeenth century, and fols. 137r–50v containing The Spectacle of Luf, signed “per M G Myll.” Asloan’s career has been thoroughly researched by Catherine van Buuren.40 He was active in Edinburgh in the first half of the sixteenth century and appears in legal documents between 1494/95 and 1532 as both a witness and notary public. His hand appears elsewhere on eleven folios of the First Edinburgh Manuscript of Andrew of Wyntoun’s Original Chronicle (c. 1408–20) in the National Library of Scotland, MS Advocates’ 19.2.3, and on some 80 folios of Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 148. This latter manuscript is one of two witnesses of the Scottish Troy Book (a now-defective late fourteenth- / early fifteenth-century translation of Guido delle Colonne’s Historia Destructionis Troiae), and a colophon in Asloan’s hand on its final page reads: “Heir endis the sege of troye / writtin & mendit at the Instance of ane honourable chaplane sir Thomas / ewyn in Edinburgh.”41 Asloan’s hand was also associated by van Buuren with London, British Library, Harley MS 4700 (a compendia of medieval Scottish law),42 and with the Wemyss Castle manuscript of Wyntoun’s Chronicle,43 but Hanna has recently doubted the former attribution and remains uncertain about the second.44

Following his reconstruction of the manuscript’s gatherings, Cunningham suggested that there “is a remarkably good correlation between the inferred gatherings . . . and the items of the manuscript”45; with the exception of the occasional “filler [items],” “only related material appears in the same gathering or group of gatherings.”46 He posited that “this correlation was maintained in the parts [of the manuscript] now lost” and concluded that Asloan’s manuscript therefore “consisted of a series of more or less independent fascicles” which remained separate for some time before being bound together in an organized fashion.47 Van Buuren by contrast suggested that “Asloan, or his exemplar, copied the items as they became available to him.”48 The reality is most probably somewhere in between. As Mapstone states, “[i]t is quite true that not all the materials in Asloan’s MS follow a discernible patterning. It seems most probable, however, that the organization of his MS reflects a combination of the calculated and the contingent.”49

A discernible pattern — or at least common grouping of material — is apparent in the gatherings surrounding FB. The poem appears in Cunningham’s reconstructed quire 11, where it is followed in the same quire by Henryson’s “Two Mice” and The Crying of a Play, and in the next quire by Henryson’s Orpheus and Eurydice and the anonymous Thre Prestis of Peblis. FB was preceded in quire 10 by Holland’s Buke of the Howlat, which, in the manuscript’s original form, was itself preceded by a number of Henryson’s other Fables (including “The Paddock and the Mouse,” “The Preaching of the Swallow,” “Lion and the Mouse,” “Fox and the Wolf,” and “Trial of the Fox”), Colkelbie Sow (a comic tale about a peasant Colkebie and his sow, and the three pennies that resulted from her sale), and unattributed and now-lost “Buke of the þe otter and þe ele,” plus a couple of filler lyrics, and Dunbar’s Flyting. With the exception of the latter three items, and Crying of a Play, the other items cohere together very well. This section of the manuscript — which seems to have “formed a core to Asloan’s book”50 — comprises a sequence of fables, many of them, like FB, involving animals and tales-within-tales, and a number of these fables are further concerned, again like FB, with good governance, either self or public. Looking just at the works of Henryson, Orpheus and Eurydice contains a number of unique elements that present the young king Orpheus as a king unable to control his private emotions and therefore his public realm, whilst in the central stanza of the “Lion and the Mouse” a mouse advises the tyrannical lion that “In euerie iuge mercy and reuth suld be” (line 1468); the moral to the “Two Mice” counsels against greed and advises that one be content with “small possessioun” (lines 372, 380, 388, 396); and that to the “Fox and the Wolf” advises on the need to repent of one’s sins and be ready for death. “The Trial of the Fox” furthermore contains a beast-parliament headed by a lion-king, akin to that in FB, whilst the “Preaching of the Swallow” and “Paddock and the Mouse” address the need for prudence and the tension between the body and soul, a theme also explored in “The Horsis Tale.” Indeed, the explanatory notes to this edition make clear just how many parallels there are between FB and Henryson’s works, both thematically and structurally, including a concern with social justice and what appears at first glance to be an apparent disconnect between tale and moral.

Good self- and public-governance are themes addressed too in The Thre Prestis of Peblis, in which, as part of a story-telling competition, three priests (Masters John, Archibald, and William) each tell “stories dealing with the subjects of good governance and royal amorousness”;51 Master John thus tells of a king who summons a parliament to discover the cause of the ills affecting his realm. The same themes appear as well in Holland’s Buke of the Howlat, a darkly comic tale (c. 1447–52) of an owl’s pride and fall. In this poem, we find too a bird-parliament and a central heraldic excursus celebrating (in a not entirely unambiguous fashion) the service of the Douglas family to Robert Bruce and the cause of Scottish Independence.52 Even though the heraldic symbolism perhaps lying behind FB cannot be reconstructed it is, as Sally Mapstone has remarked, nevertheless “striking that two works so closely positioned in one manuscript should share such a number of features,”53 and even more striking that FB should have so much in common with those other texts immediately surrounding it.


The Fyve Bestes has been edited on three previous occasions.54 It was first printed in 1885 by J. Small in his edition of David Laing’s Select Remains of the Ancient Popular and Romance Poetry of Scotland, and then as part of W. A. Craigie’s twovolume edition of the Asloan Manuscript.55 Gregory Kratzmann provided the first critical edition when he edited the poem alongside Colkelbie Sow (from the Bannatyne Manuscript: Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, Advocates’ MS 1.1.6).56 This edition is much indebted to his astute critical commentary.

Following METS practice, modern punctuation, capitalization, and word-division are introduced in this edition. Thorn and yogh are represented by their modern equivalents (th and y), as are i/j and u/v/w spellings, and contractions and marks of abbreviation have been silently expanded.

Several features of Asloan’s scribal practice are worthy of additional note:
• According to Hanna, “Craigie universally expanded þ to represent the modern words ‘their’ and ‘there’ as þair,” but since the full form appears elsewhere as þar I follow Hanna in expanding to this form (here represented as thar).57

• As Hanna and van Buuren note,58 a back-curving loop or curl connected with the previous letter stands customarily for -er at the end of a word, and also within. However, as Hanna also observes, there is ambiguity surrounding Asloan’s practice, such that “this loop appears virtually universally and indicates almost any combination of vowel + r.”59 We find apparent inconsistency too between abbreviated and full forms. Ever and never, for instance, when abbreviated both alone and in compound forms appear to be spelled ever and never but the former appears in unabbreviated form as evir. In this edition I follow Craigie and Van Buuren in adopting ever and never for all abbreviated forms.60

• Asloan is fond of using a flourished r, often at the end of a line, but following the editorial practices of Hanna and van Buuren, this is treated as otiose and so not expanded to re.61 On occasion horizontal or curved lines (usually used to indicate the absence of n or m) appear above -ioun; these are again treated as otiose.

• Long s has been printed as s; ff at the beginning of a line is rendered by F.

• ß, most often found in word-final position, is transcribed as s. However, on occasion it appears in combination with s to represent a plural form (-is) and is transcribed as such (“encresis,” line 123; “decesis,” line 124; “housis,” line 171).
For further in-depth discussion of Asloan’s hand see the introductions to the Buke of the Howlat, edited by Hanna, as well as Buke of the Chess, and Buke of the Sevyne Sagis, edited by van Buuren.
• In the defective portions of the text, I follow Kratzmann in supplying within square brackets words suggested by Craigie. Three-dot ellipses are used to indicate those portions of the text that cannot possibly be reconstructed.

• Throughout the poem, either at the start of new tales or the beginning of a moralitas, two-line gaps with guide-letters are left for the initial letter of the section and the start of following line is indented; for example, the initial flourished I of line 43 is present. Asloan uses headings sporadically to introduce individual tales (e.g., “The Unicornis Tale”) or the moral (moralitas fabule). For the sake of consistency, headings are here used for each tale and moral. Those editorial headings are enclosed in square brackets.

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