On the fox and the jug

Author unknown
Genre Epic, Poem
Keywords 14th century, exemplum, Hradec Manuscript, Old Czech
Title (in Czech) O lišce a džbánu
Title (in English translation) On the fox and the jug
Editor Andrea Svobodová – Štěpán Šimek
Translator Walter Schamschula
Edited source Praha, Národní knihovna České republiky, sign. XXIII G 92, ff. 130r-132r
Introduction Walter Schamschula – Andrea Svobodová
TEI P5 XML Encoding Jitka Filipová – Michal Mocňák – Ondřej Tichý
Summary of content Old Czech versified exemplum of a fox who fell victim to his own cleverness when he tried to punish a jug by plunging it into the water, but it pulled him down with its weight and drowned him.
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Introduction to the Text

In most editions the genre of O lišce a džbánu (‘On the fox and the jug’) has been mistakenly defined as a “fable”. It should rather be named a “fabliau” or “exemplum”, a short narrative used in the context of moral instruction, e.g. within preaching (German Predigtmärlein). The imagery of the text, which forms a part of the Hradec Manuscript, is essentially religious. At least two Latin prose versions of the same story, originating in Bohemia, are known to address human sinfulness during the time of carnival and to prepare Christians for penitence during the Lenten season.

After being decoded according to this symbolism, the story ought to be understood as a dialogue between body/flesh, the sinful part, and the soul which longs for eternal life after death. The jug, as the vessel, represents the body which gets control over the smart but unwise soul, which is represented by the fox, and makes him its slave. Thus, at the end, the jug, loaded with water, pulls the fox into the fount and destroys her by its weight, the weight of sin. In this respect the exemplum shares some basic ideas with Visio Philiberti (or Fulberti), the dialogue between body and soul widely disseminated in the Middle Ages and known in Old Czech as Spor dušě s tělem. There is reason to believe that this composition has influenced O lišcě a džbánu (Schamschula 1988). The fountain, which is the fount of wisdom and virtue, represents Christ at the Last Judgement.

Introduction to the Source

There is only one preserved copy of the text in the Hradec Manuscript (Praha, Národní knihovna České republiky, sign. XXIII G 92, ff. 130r-132r; available online).

About this Edition

The edition contains the complete text (96 verses). The given transcription was made according to the manuscript, taking into account the edition of Walter Schamschula (cf. Schamschula 1991, see Existing editions below).

The present translation has been taken, with the permission of Walter Schamschula, from the text of his edition. No textual changes have been made to the text, and only obvious typographical errors have been removed (cf. Schamschula 1991, see Existing editions below). The introductory information, based on Schamschula´s edition, has been supplemented from new contributions on the topic.

Existing Editions

O lišce a dčbánu, in: Sebrání básní a zpěvů 1, Antonín Puchmajer (ed.), Praha 1795, pp. 147-150 [semi-diplomatic transcription].

Starobylá skládanie: Památka XIII. a XIV. věku. Díl 1., Václav Hanka (ed.), Praha 1818, pp. 202–206 [standardized transcription].

Bájka o lišce a čbánu, in: Výbor z literatury české 1, Pavel Josef Šafařík (ed.), Praha 1845, cols. 227-230 [standardized transcription].

Hradecký rukopis, Adolf Patera (ed.), Praha 1881, pp. 386-393 [semi-diplomatic transcription, standardized transcription].

Staročeské satiry z Hradeckého rukopisu, Jan Vilikovský (ed.), Praha 1942, pp. 75-77 [standardized transcription].

Výbor z české literatury od počátků po dobu Husovu, Bohuslav Havránek a kol. (eds.), Praha 1957, pp. 332–335 [standardized transcription].

Staročeské satiry Hradeckého rukopisu a Smilovy školy, Josef Hrabák (ed.), Praha 1962, pp. 109-111 [standardized transcription].

Hradecký rukopis: sborník českých veršovaných skladeb z 2. poloviny 14. století, Bohuslav Havránek (ed.), Praha 1969 [facsimile].

O lišce a džbánu/On the fox and the jug, in: An Anthology of Czech Literature. 1st Period: from the Beginnings until 1410, Walter Schamschula (ed.), Frankfurt am Main – Bern – New York – Paris 1991, pp. 154-158 [standardized transcription].

O lišcě a o čbánu, Alena M. Černá (ed.), Praha 2011 [standardized transcription]. Available at: https://vokabular.ujc.cas.cz/edice/HradLis

Existing translations

O lišce a džbánu/On the fox and the jug, in: An Anthology of Czech Literature. 1st Period: from the Beginnings until 1410, Walter Schamschula (ed.), Frankfurt am Main – Bern – New York – Paris 1991, pp. 154-158.

Further Reading

Brambora, Josef: Bajka o lišce i džbánu – nejstarší české monodrama, Slovesná věda 2, 1948/1949, pp. 20–23.

Schamschula, Walter: Alttschechische Dichtung zwischen weltlicher und geistlicher Interpretation. Der Schwank vom Fuchs und vom Krug, in: Gesellschaftsgeschichte. Festschrift für Karl Bosl zum 50. Geburtstag, Munich 1988, pp. 52–62.

Kolár, Jaroslav: O lišce a džbánu, in: Lexikon české literatury M-O, Praha 2000, p. 625 [encyclopedic entry listing editions and literature up to 2000]. Available at: https://service.ucl.cas.cz/edicee/lexikon/lexikon/255-lexikon-ceske-literatury-osobnosti-dila-instituce-3-i-m-o

Lehár, Jan: Rukopis hradecký, in: Lexikon české literatury P-Ř, Praha 2000, p. 1327-1329 [encyclopedic entry listing editions and literature up to 2000]. Available at: https://service.ucl.cas.cz/edicee/lexikon/lexikon/256-lexikon-ceske-literatury-osobnosti-dila-instituce-3-ii-p-r

On the fox and the jug


MECZ [online], On the fox and the jug, ed. unknown, trans. Walter Schamschula. KREAS Faculty of Arts, Charles University, Retrieved 07.12.2022, from https://mecz.kreas.ff.cuni.cz/publication/on-the-fox-and-the-jug/ Bibtex citation

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