The Taill of how this forsaid Tod maid his Confessioun to Freir Wolf Waitskaith

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A German depiction of the Cock and the Fox, c. 1498

"The Taill of how this forsaid Tod maid his Confessioun to Freir Wolf Waitskaith" (or "The Confessioun of the Tod") is the Fabill 4 in Robert Henryson's Morall Fabillis. Its protagonists are a Fox and a Wolf. It is also the second in a linked "mini-cycle" of three taillis in that poem which follows the fate of a family line of foxes.

The principal action of the fabill revolves around rites of confession, penance and the remission of sins. These were all standard practice in the Scotland of Henryson's time.


The story picks up where the previous fable left off, as the Cock returns safe and happy to his family (it's still unknown what his wives think about it, though it's hinted that they are relieved he survived at all), but the fox, Lawrence, was starving as he waits until nightfall before his next hunt. When it gets dark, Lawrence, though he never been to college, had been gifted with knowledge enough to foresee his own future and that of his descendants by astrology, and after seeing the bad omens that align the planets with unfitting constellations, Lawrence comes to realize that unless he or one of his descendants could repent and amend himself or wrongdoings, he and his family (as the fate of all foxes, but worse to compare) will be shamed forever with the "cursed life of a thief", which is said to be so horrible that it orphans each new generation as the last one is sentenced to death for a crime he didn't commit. Thinking himself a lost cause, Lawrence the fox, in the light of dawn, sees Friar Wolf Waitskaith and assumes that admitting sin in the presence of this assumingly holy man would help free himself. The friar Wolf is pleased as the fox admits to lying, stealing, adultery, and even exaggerates by mentioning murder (few as his successful hunting-and-killings may be). After that, Lawrence the fox, believing himself cleansed of his wrongs, fears doing so again, as he is from a povertous family, and is too proud to work or beg for his meals, but upon Friar Wolf suggesting he fast and eat nothing with flesh until Easter, Lawrence resorts to begging to be an exception to the custom. The friar granted it, but suggested that it would be only fish from the stream at least once or twice a week. Lawrence takes the advice gracefully, but then finds the new practice difficult as he has no net, pole, or boat to fish with properly, and so has to keep swiping at the water and missing his catch. Upon one of these unsuccessful fishing trips, the fox sees a fat lamb had strayed from the flock, and driven by hunger, he cannot resist pouncing on it. While the lamb survived the incident, the shepherd caught Lawrence the fox in the act of attempting to kill it, and although he said that he was "only kidding" and pleads he'd never do it again, the fox meets his end by a single, unmerciful blow from the shepherd. (the next story is the official beginning of Reynard's tale, as he faces trial for his father's sins.)

A Franciscan Friar

See also[edit]

Preceded by
The Taill of Schir Chanticleir and the Foxe
The Morall Fabillis
by Robert Henryson
Succeeded by
The Taill of the Sone and Air of the foirsaid Foxe, callit Father Weir: Alswa the Parliament of fourfuttit Beistis, haldin be the Lyoun