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Old French Tales from Brittany

Marie de France: The Story of Lanval

12th century, Old French: British Library, Bibliothèque Nationale Paris.

He journeyed with her to Avalon, the Bretons say, to a very pretty isle. And he was never seen again.

'Could be a cautionary tale about blabbing too openly about one's beliefs in Medieval times,' said Miranda. 'The knight Lanval is resting in the forest one day when two maidens approach him and take him to their mistress. She is the most beautiful woman that Lanval has ever set his eyes upon, a creature of the Otherworld, clothed seductively – or in fact unclothed seductively – quite the antithesis of any Christian icon. They spend the afternoon making love together and in the evening she sends him away with a promise that she will shower him with wealth and be there for him whenever he wants her to be, on the sole condition that he tells no one about her.

'Of course, events conspire. Guinevere tries to seduce Lanval, fails, so she accuses him of homosexuality and he rebuffs her absurd suggestion by—catastrophe! Everything lost! His secret is out.

'Lanval faces trial now, abandoned by his Otherworldly mistress, falsely and spitefully charged by Queen Guinevere with seduction when in reality it was she who was trying to seduce him. A guilty verdict seems inevitable.

All of a sudden, two maidens arrive, then another two, followed by the object of his love, the beautiful creature of the Otherworld who makes a grand entrance into King Arthur's court. The truth is made known. Lanval goes to a mounting block and as the lady passes, he leaps onto her horse. He went with her to Avalon, so the Bretons tell us, to a very beautiful island. And he was never seen again.

Story recounted from: Burgess, Glyn S., and Busby, Keith, 1986. The Lais of Marie de France. Translated from Old French with an introduction. Penguin Books Limited. Lanval, pp 73–81.

See for yourself

Breton Lays – Wikipedia

Lanval – Wikipedia

Marie de France – Wikipedia

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