Reynardine is a traditional English ballad (Roud 397). In the versions most commonly sung and recorded today, Reynardine is a werefox who attracts beautiful women so that he can take them away to his castle. What fate meets them there is usually left ambiguous.
The original English ballads upon which Reynardine are based, most of which date to the Victorian era, are generally found under the title The Mountains High. In the original story, Ranordine (also given as Rinordine, Rinor Dine, Ryner Dyne, Rine-a-dine, Rynadine, Retterdyne, Randal Rhin or Randal Rine) is a bandit or outlaw who encounters a young woman in the wilderness and seduces or abducts her. The song ends with a warning to young women to beware of strange men.
"The Mountains High" appears not to be very old, since only one version was collected before 1800. A version appears in George Petrie's 1855 collection of ballads; other variants appear in a number of broadside ballads from the nineteenth century. Washington Irving relates that the song had crossed the Atlantic and was being sung in Kentucky before 1832, and that it spread through North America in the nineteenth century as well.
A text of a circa 1814 broadside
According to folklorist Stephen Winick, although the name "Reynardine" is found in one 19th century version, the association with foxes, as well as Reynardine's supernatural characteristics, first arise in connection with a fragment of the ballad (a single stanza) that was collected in 1904 by Herbert Hughes. The source's recollection of the ballad was that Reynardine was an Irish "faëry" who could turn into a fox. This ability (which is not suggested in any extant version of "The Mountains High") may have derived from the word "Reynardine": renard is French for "fox," deriving from the trickster figure Reynard.
Winick points out that Hughes and a friend named Joseph Campbell (not to be confused with the mythologist) wrote short poems incorporating this stanza and the fox interpretation, aspects of which A. L. Lloyd in turn adapted for his versions of "Reynardine" (see Winick 2004). Winick also shows that Lloyd's versions incorporate several striking turns of phrase, including "sly, bold Reynardine" and "his teeth did brightly shine", that are found neither in the original ballads, nor in Hughes' or Campbell's versions.
Lloyd generally represented his versions of "Reynardine" as "authentic" folksongs (going so far as to claim to have collected the song from one "Tom Cook, of Eastbridge, Suffolk"), but this informant has never apparently been encountered by any other collector. Lloyd's claims have led to the current state of confusion; few modern singers know that the "werefox" interpretation of the ballad is not traditional. Lloyd's reworkings are certainly more interesting to the modern listener than the simple and moralistic original ballads, and have gained far greater interest from singers and songwriters; his versions of "Reynardine" have served as inspiration for many additional modern reworkings.
Modern versions of the song have been recorded for the following albums:
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