Willem die Madocke maecte  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Willem die Madocke maecte (c.1200–c.1250) ("William-who-made-the-Madoc") is the traditional designation of a 13th-century Dutch poet who wrote Van den Vos Reinaerde, a version of the story of Reynard the Fox. The poem dates from around 1250. It is considered a major work of Middle Dutch literature and has been called "the pinnacle of Gothic literature in the Netherlands."



The traditional name derives from a line at the beginning of the poem, when he introduces himself as the same Willem who had previously written a work called "Madoc", possibly an early version of the story of the legendary Welsh explorer Prince Madoc:

Willem, die Madoc maecte,
Daer hi dicken omme waecte,
Hem vernoyde so haerde
Dat die avonture van Reynaerde
In dietsche onghemaket bleven.
(Willem, who wrote Madoc,
As he often took such care
It troubled him so much
That the adventure of Reynard
Had not been written in Dutch)</poem>

No copies of Willem's "Madoc" are known to have survived, but there are references to it which suggest that the poem was widely circulated in manuscript.

It has been suggested that Willem is identical to Willem of Bruges, Canon of Kortrijk Cathedral. References to localities in the poem suggest that he lived much of his life in East Flanders, including Ghent, a town he mentions twice in his work.



Willem was reliant for the story of Van den Vos Reinaerde on the French epic poem Le Plaid, the first story of a larger collection of fox tales known as the Roman de Renard - written by Perrout de Saint Cloude in 1160. He freely adapted and developed the original source, doing so "so deftly and with so much freedom and originality that his adaptation is universally conceded to be the best specimen of the genre in any language."


André De Vries writes that the work is an allegory of contemporary Dutch politics at the court of Philip I of Namur, known as "Philip the Noble":

It is supposed that Willem wrote Van den Vos Reinaerde to encourage Siger III, chatelain of the Counts’ Castle in Ghent, who was unjustly deprived of his post around 1210 by Philip the Noble, Count of Namur and Regent of Flanders. The figure of the concupiscent and vacillating Noble the Lion seems to be based on Philip, who slavishly followed the King of France’s orders and handed over two princesses as hostages to his master. Reinaert’s castle is actually Siger Ill’s country retreat at Destelbergen, which appears on later maps by the same name as Reinaert’s lair, Mapertuus, meaning Hell’s Gate.

De Vries argues that the animal characters represent barons who conspired against the Count of Flanders. He is accused of various crimes, but generally outwits his accusers. Nevertheless, he is in the end sent into exile.


Willem's Reynard was translated into Latin verse by a contemporary. Another, unknown, poet wrote a sequel, expanding the original to a full eight thousand line version. This version, when printed in 1487, proved very popular across Europe.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Willem die Madocke maecte" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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