The Lais of Marie de France

Marie de France was a poet and translator that amaze many people through her work. Most of her literature revolved around aristocracy, featuring lower-class characters how emerged to be more worthy than their superiors. In this text, I will compare “Bisclavret” and the “Lanval” both from The Lais of Marie de France. Maria begin her collection The Lais of Marie de France with an address that emphasizes “anyone who has received from God the gift of knowledge and true eloquence” is obligated to such gifts into telling stories (Maria de France et al., 1999). Due to this Maria devoted herself to narrating tales she might have heard and believed to be true. “Bisclavret,” says the story of a baron who would turn into a werewolf at night. He had kept knowledge of his curse secret until he revealed it to his wife. The wife plotted against him leaving him trapped in wolf form. “Lanval” narrates of a knight who was forced by circumstances to reveal his mistress even though it was never in his plans. Lanval, a knight under King Arthur, was accused of homosexuality by the queen. Therefore the court demanded the accused to present his mistress before them. Of these two tales, I would recommend “Bisclavret” the most; it has a dramatic unfolding of events. 

It is true to say that “Lanval” is a story of an outcast, and through its plot, the author brings out the theme of the great love which sadly cannot exist in the real world. We are told how Lanval was a decorated knight envied for his bravery and loyalty, yet he was not invited to the ceremony where the king was giving out shares of land. From this Marie, how the character is eliminated for society. One day, as Lanval rides his horse by a stream, he is approached by two women who direct him to some lady that they allege to be in love with him. The knight is immediately captivated by the lady’s gorgeousness, and they become lovers. It does not come as a surprise that Lanval’s great happiness and love come from n outcast as well. The lady did not her existence to be revealed to anyone else. Marie rarely spends time describing individuals but in this story the case was different. How the author describes the lady’s adornments conclude that she was magical, probably a fairy. And when Lanval is in trouble and in desperate need for his lover she shows up, despite it violating her code. In this context we see how love rises above all odds. However it is this love that causes conflict in the story. The queen pursued Lanval but his love for his mistress would not let him lie with the queen. The queen did not take rejection kindly; she decided to tarnish the knight’s name, claiming he tried to seduce her and threw insults when she refused to fall into his trap. When the case is presented in court, it is resolved by the presence of Lanval’s woman. She attested Lanval’s claim, and there was no reason to restrain him behind bars any more.

There is no great love in “Bisclavret”. In tale we are introduced to a couple that lives a life full of secrets. Baron used to disappear for three days a week without letting his wife know of his whereabouts. The wife develops thought of perhaps the husband had a hidden lover. She is consumed too much with her thoughts and decides to inquire direct from the husband. The baron is reluctant to answer because “great harm would come to [him] and [he] shall lose [her] love and destroy [himself] (Maria de France et al., 1999).” Here w witness doubt in love, the author shows how the couple was unsure of each other. When finally the baron confesses to the wife he turns to a werewolf, she interrogates him and learns that there is a process that facilitates the transformation back to mankind. In the absence of the baron’s cloth, he would “remain a werewolf forever (Maria de France et al., 1999).” The wife was pretending not to be concerned with the husband’s condition. She no longer “wished to lie with him (Maria de France et al., 1999).”  Therefore she began to formulate how get rid of the baron. She joins forces with some knight that has been laying eyes on her for long. The knight was to steal the baron’s cloths and have the wife’s “love and body (Maria de France et al., 1999).”  Here we see a theme of betrayal as the baron is left to be a werewolf for eternity while the wife moves on happily to marry a knight. The conflict in this story is brought forth by this betrayal bestowed upon the baron. 

After being condemned to be a werewolf, luckily one day he was taken in as a pet by the king. And then it followed that there was a feast in the castle and the knight who married Bisclavret’s wife was invited over with other barons. As soon as the wolf (Bisclavret) sets eyes on him, it attacks. Luckily for the knight, the king calms down Bisclavret. Since the wolf had never behaved in such a manner, everyone in the court assumes that the knight must have done something wrong to the wolf. Soon afterwards, the king happened to visit the area where Bisclavret and together with him was his pet. On spotting his ex-wife Bisclavret pounced on her and tore her nose off. At this juncture, the matter had become too suspicious because the woman was wife to the knight recently attacked by the same wolf. It was all solved after the woman confessed what she had done to her ex-husband. Bisclavret was given his clothes and transformed back into a man. 

Marie de France well articulates the two stories. I have no regrets reading them both. A common aspect in these narrations is nobility. We witness the presence of a king and barons (people of high social status) in them. But I believe Bisclavret is much outstanding. 

References

Maria de France. (1999). The Lais of Marie de France (Penguin Classics) (G. Burgess, & K. Busby, Trans.) (2nd ed.). Penguin Classics.

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