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362 Study Questions: Marie De France, Lanval

Vocabulary: lai, Norman, Norman conquest, Breton, courtly love, fairy tale, wish fulfillment, H-manuscript, geis, folklore motif, octosyllabic couplets, fin amour, feudalism, knight, chivalry, locus amoenus,.

Identifications: Lanval, the fairy lover, Queen Gwenevere, King Arthur, Gawain, Avalon

Lecture Notes: What language does Marie use to write down her lais in England? What language were they originally written in when she first heard them?

Introduction Questions: What is the mystery surrounding Marie de France's identity?:

Reading Questions:

  • The setting of Lanval begins at what time of year in the liturgical calendar? Why is that appropriate?
  • When King Arthur gives out his gifts and rewards to his knights, what does he forget to do?
  • Why does Lanval feel lonely and depressed? List two reasons.
  • What does Lanval do with all his personal wealth?
  • When Lanval goes out riding and takes a nap in the forest, who or what does he find "hoving" into view?
  • How are the two damoiselles dressed?
  • When the damoiselles take Lanval to their mistress, how is their mistress dressed?
  • What invitation do these strangers offer to Lanval?
  • What is the mistress in the pavilion wearing?
  • For what purpose did the fairy woman seek out Lanval?
  • In addition to her sexual favors, the fairy woman grants what to Lanval whenever he needs it?
  • What is the one condition the fairy lover establishes in the relationship--the one rule or taboo Lanval cannot break?
  • The second part of the story commences in line 214 with what religious feast? Why is this appropriate for the upcoming events?
  • On Saint John's Day, what social oversight does Gawain correct?
  • Who sees Lanval's "makeover" and finds herself attracted to him when she gazes out from the castle window? Why is this dangerous for Lanval?
  • How does Lanval react to Gwenever's advances?
  • Right after the rejection, what sexual trait, quality, or characteristic does Gwenever suggest is the problem with Lanval? (i.e., when Lanval spurns the adulterous affections, what does Gwenevere accuse him of being?)
  • What insulting declaration or boast does Lanval make about the Queen in comparison to his fairy lover?
  • Why does Arthur sentence Lanval to death?
  • What does Arthur demand for Lanval's life to be spared? (i.e., what must he produce before the court?)
  • When the two maidens show up at Lanval's execution, what does the court assume about their identity? (i.e., they think one of these maidens must be whom?)
  • What do these two maidens ride?
  • Who shows up next on a milk-white horse accompanied by falcons and greyhounds?
  • The fairy lover is described according to the courtly ideals of Norman beauty in lines 560 et passim. What are some of these traits?
  • Where does the fairy lover take Lanval after the verdict acquits him of guilt?


A: Inside the tent the maiden was:
Not rose nor lily could surpass
Her beauty when they bloom in May.
The sumptuous bed on which she lay
Was beautiful when they bloom in May.
The sumptuous bed on which she lay
Was beautiful. The drapes and tassel
Sheets and pillows were worth a castle.

B: "Ami," she said, "please understand,
I warn and pray you and command:
You must never tell anyone
About the love that you have won.
The consequence I shall declare:
Should people learn of this affair,
You shall never again see me,
Nor have my body in your fee."

C: "It's evident
That to such pleasures you have no bent.
Often I have heard men aver
That women are not what you prefer.
But you have many pretty boys
With whom you like to take your joys.
Faithless coward of low degree,
My lord was badly served when
Suffered your presence to come near.

D: The damoiselle rode out the door.
Swiftly he sprang the horse to straddle
And sat behind her on the saddle.
To Avalon they came away,
Which Breton storytellers say
An island is, most ravishing,
There [he] has gone, vanishing.
No man has heard more of his fate:
I've nothing further to relate.


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