Lais of Marie de France is a series of short stories dedicated to describing and celebrating the adventures of heroes who meet sincere love on their way and gradually learn to express it to other people. The collection consists of 12 short stories: Guigemar, Equitan, Le Fresne, Bisclavret, Lanval, Les Deus Amanz, Yonec, Laustic, Milun, Chaitivel, Chevrefoil, Eliduc. The themes of honor, chivalry, noble love and fortune are raised in each novel. This book tells the story of heroes who meet villains on their way, fight them and win, defending their moral values. Moreover, each tale shows more and more human sides of the characters. In the 12th century in England, where the author wrote stories, there was an era of conquest and internal conflicts between the authorities and the spiritual center. At this time, Marie was writing stories whose main idea was to sing the concept of love, emphasized through nobility and chivalry. This book is a vital part of history because it describes certain stereotypes of society, draws attention to the fatality of fate and the importance of showing love, and more modern views are demonstrated.
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Readers can see an unambiguous juxtaposition of negative and positive actions and characters in each of the stories described in this collection. The idea that characters’ activities have harmful consequences or hurt others, even though they seek to praise and realize themselves through love, is carried through the entire collection of stories. An essential factor is that France and Busby (2011) claim that “Marie is not concerned with showing her characters integrated into society” (p. 28). The ratio of France and Busby (2011) towards the public surrounding the characters is evident throughout the book: “If society does not appreciate the lovers, then the lovers die or abandon culture” (p. 24). Moreover, the characters’ adventures do not affect their society and only impact their inner world.
Politicians or heroes who identify with culture also have a clear division into positive and negative heroes. France and Busby (2011) described the husband of a rich lady in the story “Gigemar” as “he was exceedingly jealous and hate to be cuckolded” (p. 35). However, he is the country’s ruler and can be described as an older man; he is responsible for the whole state and loves his wife. Some similar standards and stereotypes act as fundamental and immutable rules for accepting a situation in modern society. For example, the perception of a white male in age is often stereotypical because it is shown to the public in an unsightly way. Simultaneously, regarding gender relations at that time, people were much more constrained than they are now.
The idea of fate’s fatality is also traced throughout the stories and becomes one of the book’s central themes. For example, even the curse in the tale of Gigimer by France and Busby (2011) sounds like this: “Vassal, you who wounded me, let this be your fate” (p. 34). Concepts such as court love, honor, chivalry, fortune, and magic go hand in hand in the stories. I think that morality and honor play an essential role for me in my life, which is vital to maintain and not undermine. Interestingly, the stories demonstrate a behavior pattern when the hero receives a reward after making the “right” choice.
That is not similar to modern stories, where the main idea is to continue living and not receive a reward for positive actions. One of the main morals can be called the fact that France and Busby (2011) demonstrate the consequences of heroes’ actions in experiencing love: “the significant consideration for Marie always seems to be the quality of the love” (p. 27). These books’ moral was quite unusual and new for that society; simultaneously, it is significant to note how important this moral is for modern society. The correct expression of love for a fellow is one of the fundamental forms of communicating with people. Because the author had a female gender, there was a new look at each story and character. It brought new excitement to the readers’ hearts, who were seized with an attachment to the characters, who became more sensitive. Moreover, these stories describe events in the social circle of that time, show situations from a new perspective, and give people hope for something more than the material world. The most exciting aspect of this work is the courage with which the author wrote these stories. I admire that she was not afraid to show the characters as sensible people who also experience failures and suffer. These are incredibly instructive stories that carry entertainment value for the modern reader. However, clarity must be present in each of them since the writing style is already outdated, and some readers find it difficult to interpret the stories from this collection.
In conclusion, it is essential to note that the love and fate shown in this book’s stories are reflected in a new way in the literature. Now the characters are masculine by all canons and have feelings and faith in something higher. I believe that any information’s significance is determined by the number of thoughts that come to mind after reading. Therefore, it is vital to discuss this book with colleagues because everyone can find a special hidden meaning in it.
France, M. & Busby, K. (2011). The Lais of Marie de France: With Two Further Lais in the Original Old French. Penguin.
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