by Fred Patten
©2011 Fred Patten
(A digression: Solarion is the worst Furry novel I have ever read. It is a hysterically rabid pro-Christian polemic that equates all scientists and atheists with Satanists. Kenneth Stafford, an atheistic Mad Scientist, uses electricity in his Frankensteinian experiments to evolve the brains of dogs. He gives the unbelievably noble dog Solarion (Immense of stature, with a leonine front lit by a pair of lustrous dark eyes, he was clad in a curly silken fleece of that shimmering whiteness which invests a flawless pearl.p. 337; etc., at great length) intelligence and speech, for his own nefarious purposes. The good Solarion spends the rest of the novel kvetching that he may have human intelligence but he lacks a Soul, because only God can create Souls.)
But there is one Furry novel that I have never read, because it has never been published in English. This is the Dutch About Reynard the Fox, by Robert van Genechten. This book has the reputation of being the Nazi equivalent of Animal Farm; a talking-animal parable that is blatantly anti-Semitic. It has been out of print since the liberation of the Netherlands in 1945, and it could not be republished today because of most Western nations laws against Hate literature.
Robert van Genechten (born in 1895) was a Belgian fervent socialist who fled to the Netherlands in 1918 to escape imprisonment for collaborating with the occupying German Army during World War I. He kept in touch from there with the Belgian anti-monarchial socialists. In 1934 he joined the Nationaal Socialistische Beweging (NSB), the National Socialist Movement; the Dutch version of the German Nazi party. He became the editor of Nieuw-Nederland, the partys literary magazine. In 1937 he decided that the Nazis idealized New Order for Europe should have a New Literature to promote it. He wrote Van den vos Reynarde: Ruwaard Boudewijn en Jodocus (About Reynard the Fox: Baldwin the Regent and Jodocus) for Nieuw-Nederlands November 1937 issue. It was a modernized sequel to the medieval European folk tale, first written in literary form in Latin as Reinardus Vulpes by Nivardus of Ghent about 1148, and in France as Le Roman de Renart by Pierre de Saint-Cloud in 1174, about the animal kingdom of King Nobel the lion, and how the wicked but clever Baron Reynard the fox tricks and humiliates all the other animal noblemen of the royal court. The tale became so popular over the centuries throughout Western Europe that in France, reynard replaced the older French word for fox, goupil.
Van Genechtens sequel is set in the animal kingdom, some time after the events of the first story. King Nobel has just died. His heir, Prince Lionel, is too young to rule, so the kingdom is put under a regency led by Prime Minister Baldwin the ass, a pompously vain aristocrat. (While Baldwin the ass is a character in the original folk talealong with Isengrim the wolf, Bruin the bear, Courtoys the hound, Tybalt the cat, Chanticleer the rooster, Cuwart the hare, Grymbart the fox (Reynards nephew), Tyselyn the raven, Bellen the ram, and many othersvan Genechten probably chose to make Baldwin the aristocratic but stupid regent as a satirical jab at the then-current Belgian crown prince, also named Baldwin.) At this time Reynard is living under isolated house arrest at his estate in the countryside, Maupertuis, watching but not getting involved in what is going on.
Into the kingdom wander a band of traveling rhinoceros merchants led by Jodocus. Van Genechtens description draws blatant comparisons between the rhinoceros nose-horns and the large hooked noses of Nazi caricatures of Jews. Jodocus explains with mock humility that the rhinoceroses only want to serve the animal society as humble tradesmen. Soon the rhinos have spread throughout the kingdom, craftily taking control of its commerce. By flattering Baldwin, Jodocus wins a place for himself and his closest companions at court. They convince the animal nobility that they are being old-fashioned in keeping a hereditary kingdom rather than a modern republic, where anyone can be elected the leader; and by practicing species segregation instead of interspecies mating. Shortly the miscegenation leads to bizarre hybridizations such as a goat-fish, a cat-chicken, and a ferret-boar. The mongrels are all ugly and stupid, in accordance with the Nazi doctrine of racial purity. Jodocus also persuades Baldwin to appoint the rhinoceroses to be the kingdoms tax collectors. Reynard is the only animal smart enough to recognize that the rhinoceroses are undermining the animal society so they can take the kingdom over. Just before they succeed, Reynard rallies the heroic National Socialist animal commoners to rise up and fight the rhinoceroses, killing Jodocus and restoring the now-adult King Lionel and the natural order
Ironically, considering that this story is known today as the Nazi equivalent of Animal Farm, the Nazis themselves turned it down; and it was never published outside of the Netherlands. When van Genechten tried to interest German publishers in publishing a German translation, the censors of the Ministry for Propaganda gave it a very condescending rejection. They ruled that while van Genechten undoubtedly meant well, the International Jewish Menace and Racial Purity were too serious to be featured as topics of satire. Also, Reynard was too well-established as a liar, a cheat, a murderer, untrustworthy, and a mocker of authority to make a proper National Socialist hero.
In 1940, when the German Wehrmacht conquered the Netherlands, the German occupiers used the Dutch NSB to establish their collaborationist government. Van Genechten became the Procurator General in the new regime. This gave him enough personal power to have About Reynard the Fox republished in March 1941 as a handsome 98-page book, with illustrations by Maarten Meuldijk; and it was given favorable reviews in publications controlled by the party. It remained in print in the Netherlands and the Flemish-speaking area of occupied Belgium throughout the war, but it quickly disappeared in May 1945 after the liberation. Van Genechten was sentenced to death by a war crimes trial court, for ordering deportations of Dutch Jews to the German concentration camps, and signing death warrants for captured Resistance fighters. He committed suicide in his prison cell on December 13, 1945.
Van Genechten also used his influence to have About Reynard the Fox made into the longest Dutch animated cartoon film to that time. (The abbreviated title was how the book was generally known, and it was the full title of the film.) It was called the first Dutch animated feature, although it was only about 20 minutes long. The Nederland Film studio was set up by the NSB authorities in 1941 to make animated propaganda films for the war effort. Cartoonists from throughout the Netherlands were drafted as animators; most worked willingly enough because life as an animator was better than most other forced-labor assignments. The film, which was Nederland Films only feature, was not finished until April 1943, and it was never released! The negative and soundtrack were taken to Berlin, where they disappeared during the end of the war. Partial elements were rediscovered in 1991 and in 2005, so the film has been restored and shown at recent Dutch film festivals. It is apparently a straightforward adaptation of the book, except that the book illustrations show the cast as unclothed, four-legged natural animals, while the cartoon turned them into clothes-wearing, bipedal anthropomorphized animals. This enabled the filmmakers to make Reynard into a more obviously NSB role-model.
No reason for the failure to release the film was ever given, although an educated guess can be made. By mid-1943 the war was turning against the Axis, and the Dutch people were engaging in increased passive resistance. The Germans, who controlled all theatrical distribution, probably felt that the public would boycott such an obvious propaganda film; and that it would not be worth the war-scarce film stock to have prints made.
Today About Reynard the Fox has been forgotten except by scholars of the literature of the short-lived Axis societies. Few copies of the book remain outside of academic libraries and museums of the artifacts of the Occupied Netherlands (1940-1945). This is one Furry novel that todays Furry fans are likely to never get an opportunity to read.
Full disclosure: I used to have a copy of About Reynard the Foxone of the very few in North America. I ordered it from an online Dutch antiquarian bookseller. I had vague plans to have it translated into English someday, but I never got around to it. In 2005 I donated it to the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Utopian Literature, at the University of California, Riversides Tomás Rivera Librarys research Special Collections Department, where it is available today for study.
For readers who want to know more about About Reynard the Fox and see sample illustrations from both the book and the cartoon, read the article Reynard the Fox and the Jew Animal, by Egbert Barten and Gerard Groeneveld in Animation World Magazine, October 1996.
|Title:||Van den Vos Reynaerde: Ruwaard Boudewijn en Jodocus
About Reynard the Fox: Baldwin the Regent and Jodocus
|Author:||Genechten, R. (Robert) Van|
|Publisher:||De Amsterdamsche Keurkamer (Amsterdam), Mar 1941|
|LoC call #:||PT5584 .A3 1941|
|98 p., USD $xx.xx|