Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Tale of the Badger Broccan1

Colyne Stewart, February AS XXXVI (2002)

Once long ago, when the animals of Septentria could still speak, there lived a badger called Broccan2. This badger was often ridiculed by the other animals because of his small size, for when he was a pup he was no bigger than a mouse. For the first years of his life, Broccan would only emerge from the family den to forage for food, for he feared the taunts of the other beasts.

Then one May’s Eve a stranger came to the land. It looked like a great black bear but with the grace and agility of a cat. This, everyone soon learned, was Brindle, the Garbear. He came from lands even farther to the north, beyond even where the Skraeling3 lived. Some whispered he was actually an evil spirit, and not mortal at all, while others said he was a demon. Whether he was spirit, demon or mortal all could agree that he was cruel. For Brindle began to encroach on the territory of the other animals. Some he chased off, some he enslaved, and some he devoured.

Utenka4 the Great Wolf, king of the animals of the north, marched on Brindle. The wolf’s forces, consisting of many brave animals, such as the northern hare, the southern ram, and the great white bear5, were very intimidating. Brindle, however, called upon his dark allies, and many answered his call. Against garwolves, tygres, dragons and drakes the animals of Septentria did not prevail. They fought with bravery and courage but sometimes that is not enough6. Using savagery and cunning, and sheer force of numbers, Brindle’s evil army crushed all resistance, locking away Utenka and his lieutenants in cages of bone.

No one had noticed, but Broccan had marched with his country folk. When he had learned of Brindle’s cruelty he crept out of his hole and marched with his cousin the fox7. The fighting had been thick near him, and Broccan had killed a few weirdlings on the enemy’s side, but the tide rose against him. His cousin had been sorely wounded, and Broccan stopped to pull him from the field, hiding him in the roots of an oak tree. By the time he had returned the battle was over. He watched as the three rams of the south were locked together in a small cage. He watched as the great white bear was finally taken down by trolls enlisted to Brindle’s aid. And he watched as Utenka fell to a poisoned dragon claw8.

Upon his victory, Brindle had the Great Wolf’s court converted to his own. Tapestries were torn down, shrines were desecrated, heirlooms destroyed. Broccan watched it all, impotent with rage. What could one small animal do, where so many other larger animals had failed.

So Broccan watched the twisted courts of Brindle as he passed sentence on the ‘traitors’ who had fought against him. He watched as they let loose their base desires. He watched as Brindle and his allies gorged themselves on food. Then, one day, while watching Brindle eat, Broccan conceived a plan. He had now seen Brindle eat a thousand times, and had noticed how he rarely chewed his food. So greedy was the garbear that he swallowed his food whole9.

Going to his cousin, who had now recovered from his wounds, Broccan told him his plan. Reynard, who himself was a cunning beast, was impressed with the plan and agreed to help.

So it was that the next day Reynard presented himself at Brindle’s court as a supplicant. He was thrown at the garbear’s paws, who loomed over him like a black wave. When the usurper king demanded to know Reynard’s business the fox began to flatter the garbear. He told him how impressed he was by Brindle’s prowess on the field, and that he wanted to bind himself to the garbear’s service. Brindle drank in all the flattery happily. Then, when Reynard offered him a cloved orange as a gift, Brindle greedily popped it into his mouth and swallowed it whole.

Smiling, Reynard then told the conqueror that all of Septentria’s animals were his, from the largest to the smallest. But he warned him that eternal vigilance would be needed to keep so strong and brave a people under his heel. Eternal vigilance that had already lapsed.

Brindle looked at the fox quizzically, then howled in pain. His allies watched on in horrified amazement as blood began to flow from his mouth. The garbear lurched about, trying to catch Reynard, but the fox kept slipping from his grasp. And all the time the blood flowed until finally, Broccan, who had hidden himself in the orange, came clawing out of the garbear’s throat in an explosion of gore. Brindle fell dead to the ground, and his allies, terrified, fled.

The badger and fox then freed their country folk. A great feast was held in Broccan’s honour, and Utenka declared that the name of Broccan would live long in Septentrian lore. Anyone, he said, would be proud to bear the name and display the attributes of Broccan. For though he was the smallest animal in stature, he was the largest in heart and courage10.

  1. This tale is written in the tradition of the animal epics of the Middle ages, primarily using the Reynard the Fox tales as its inspiration. While they were usually written in verse, I have chosen to write in prose.
  2. Broccan is based on the Old English word Brocc, which means badger.
  3. When the Norse first arrived in North America, they encountered natives, likely Inuit, whom they called the Skrealing. The Barony of Skrealing Althing combined this with Althing (Iceland’s parliament) to create their name.
  4. Yes, I know. Utenka is actually a North American Native term for Wolf. However, since we’re kind of overlapping the European Middle Ages on North America in the SCA over here, I have decided to keep this name.
  5. The animals of Skraeling Althing, Ramshaven and Septentria respectively. (Like you didn’t know.)
  6. In almost all Medieval tales, the hero wins because he fights bravely. Nothing else often matters.
  7. In the Reynard tales, the fox and badger are indeed cousins.
  8. You’re free to read whatever you want into that one.
  9. Oh-oh. Everyone should know that Greed is one of those seven deadly sins that’ll do you in.
  10. This tale is, obviously, inspired by Theign Cynred Broccan 4th Baron of Septentria. Cynred, small in stature (and often called the Gnome Baron) is nevertheless a brave and courageous fighter. He is chivalrous and kind, a giver of compassion in times of need, a warrior and a poet. Long may he reign with Gaerwen, Baroness of Septentria.

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