Analysisof Marie`s Lanval.
MarieDe France was the first French woman to compose poetry in England.She is the author of Lanval the famous Arthurian story. Her style ofwriting is unique and connects with the real social life issues andmen’s fantasies. The story Lanval is based on a heroic theme ofgreat love that cannot exist in the real world. Lanval is a story ofa supernatural woman who falls in love with a knight of the roundtable, a classic Celtic narrative (Jones, pp 131).
MarieDe France lived at a time when women were oppressed by the society.The society in her days treated women as items to own and flaunt. Inthe story women are seen as properties of men especially as rewardsgiven to knights for their hard work. Lanval is part of KingArthur`s team of knights. He swims in poverty and solitude. KingArthur rewards all his knights with women and pieces of land butoverlooks Lanval (Patrick, pp. 133). Lanval was born to a privilegedfamily with wealth and nobility, however, he is a poor knight whodoesn’t receive anything from his king even though he is a good andloyal servant (Daniel, pp. 40).
Inher story the women are more powerful than the men. There is anelement of reversed gender roles. The women in the narrative dominatetheir men. During the time Marie lived, women were dominated by men.Men ruled the world and made all the important decisions. Women werereduced to house hold duties and taking care of children. However inher story, Lanval is dominated by a mysterious magical woman. Fromthe narrative Lanval is approached by beautiful two maidens. Marievividly describes the maiden through Lanval’s eyes, “theirclothes were in expensive tastes, close fitting tunics, tightlylaced, made of deep dyed purple wool. Their faces were mostbeautiful” (Daniel , 57-60). These maidens take him to their lady.She confesses her love for him saying, “I love you over everything”(Ewert, pp. 60). She offers him a massive tonnes of wealth if only hekeeps their relationship a secret. This is a good indication of womendominance in men’s lives. Lanval the poor knight accepts thiscondition requesting only that he be left to serve the king. Hebecomes a wealthy knight and earns respect at the court (Patrick, pp.132). In addition Marie uses a fairy montif in the story. The lady towhom Lanval is presented is described as a supernatural being withwealth that could put Arthur’s to shame. Fairy motifs are usuallyemployed in Celtic tales where a beautiful lady from another universeappears to search for a lover to whom she showers with gifts andwealth as was the case with Lanval.
Mariede France employs a tone of dark sexual desires in her lais tale(Patrick, pp. 143). It is arguable that Lanval’s love might be thatof masturbation. Lanval has to be alone for his love to appear maybein his dreams. He prefers to stay alone when the queen presents hermaidens to spend time with the knights. Though Marie does not clearlypoint out this as immorality, the society at that time and even nowconsiders masturbation as a spiritual sin. Another example of thedark sexual desire displayed in the narrative is of Guinevereapproaching Lanval and making a proposition to him to be her lover.She claims to have respect, adoration, and love for him. She iswilling to do anything for him. The queen is painted as an adulterouswoman seeking to quench her lust. She manipulates her husband Arthurand his council to believe Lanval is a homosexual. She does thisafter Lanval rejects her proposition to be her lover by saying, “Inever thought to love you so! I’ve served the King for many a dayHis faith in me I won’t betray. Not for you, your love, or anythingwould I ever act against my King!” (Ewert, pp. 75). She is drivenby her guilt to destroy a worthy knight.
Thequeen draws more claims that Lanval tried to seduce her. Lanval isput on trial and jailed until he manages to prove his claim of havinga woman. In his defense, Lanval’s mistress (the supernatural being)shows up and confesses their secret love affair. To add to the fairytale, his supernatural mistress arrives riding on a white palfrey tohis rescue just before judgement is passed. Marie strips the identityof her male character and uplifts the woman to a hero of some sort.This of course is the total opposite of the truth in the society shelives in.
Inher story the fairy mistress acts as a woman superhero unlike thenormal fairy tales. She defends her love, Lanval, by acting as awitness to his testimony in the trial, declaring, “O King, I haveloved your vassal, this one, here! I mean Lanval.”(Ewert, pp. 74).Once Lanval is set free, she rides off with him to what seems to be abetter place for all eternity. It is clear that Lanval assumes theidentity of a woman that needs to be rescued, “a total reverse ofconvention”(Jones, pp. 1) and a defilement of the society’scultural male character definition. At the particular time when Mariewrote this narrative, woman dreamt of leading the world, having avoice and an opinion that mattered. The woman superhero figure is areflection of what Marie De France dreams to be but cannot achievein her because of the societal cultural ways.
Inconclusion, Marie De France Lanval story addresses some of thedelicate and neglected topics in the society e.g. homosexuality andwomen domination. Marie de France’s story should be givenappropriate attention. It played a great role in bringing to lightthese troubling issues that have been brushed off in that era andstill does the same even today.
David,Alfred. “Lanval.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed.Stephen Greenblatt and M.H. Abrams. 8th Edition. New York: Norton &Company, 2006. 142-155
AlfredEwert. Marie de France: Lais. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1944 rptd.1963. Translated by Judy Shoaf. pp. 58-75
PatrickJohn. “The Narrative of the Lanval of Marie de France.” Studiesin Philology 1977: pp.130-146. Academic Search Premier. EBSCOhost.Pace University Library, NY. 11 April 2008. Retrieved from:http://web.ebscohost.com
Jones,Miriam. "Marie De France." 01 May 2008. Retrieved from:http://www.unbsj.ca/arts/english/jones/pages/courses~/3621/syllabus/Marie.html