Bicorn and Chichevache

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17th-century engraving of Bicorn and Chichevache

Bicorn and Chichevache are fabulous beasts that appear in European satirical works of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Bicorn is a creature—often described as a part-panther, part-cow creature with a human-like face[1]—that devours kind-hearted and devoted husbands and (because of their abundance) is plump and well fed. Chichevache, on the other hand, devours obedient wives and (because of their scarcity) is thin and starving.

Chaucer[edit]

Geoffrey Chaucer mentions Chichevache in the envoy of the Clerk's Tale in his Canterbury Tales:

O noble wyves, ful of heigh prudence,
Lat noon humylitee youre tonge naille,
Ne lat no clerk have cause or diligence
To write of yow a storie of swich mervaille
As of Grisildis pacient and kynde,
Lest Chichevache yow swelwe in hire entraille! (ll. 1183–1188)[2]

Chaucer may have borrowed the French term chichifache ("thin face") and put it with vache ("cow") to make the similar term chichevache ("thin or meagre cow").[3] D. Laing Purves notes that "The origin of the fable was French; but Lydgate has a ballad on the subject. 'Chichevache' literally means 'niggardly' or 'greedy cow.'"[4]

Lydgate[edit]

In the early fifteenth century John Lydgate wrote "Bycorne and Chychevache", a 133-line poem in 7-line stanzas, probably from a French original. Written "at the request of a worthy citizen of London" to accompany a tapestry or painted wall-hanging, the poem is accompanied by instructions for pictorial representations. Lydgate describes the two beasts as husband and wife.[5]

In popular culture[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Bicorne". Mythical Creatures List. Archived from the original on 2017-06-13. Retrieved 2016-05-14.
  2. ^ Robinson, F. N., ed. (1957). The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer (2nd ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin. p. 114.
  3. ^ Segolsson, Pär-Erik. "Chichevache". The Heathen's Place. Archived from the original on 2016-06-10.
  4. ^ The Canterbury Tales, and Other Poems at Project Gutenberg
  5. ^ Hammond, Eleanor Prescott, ed. (1969) [Originally published by Duke University Press, 1927]. English Verse Between Chaucer and Surrey. New York: Octagon. pp. 113–118.

External links[edit]