To help you judge, two young researchers, Miranda Braithwaite and Quintin Rees-Edwards, have completed a project designed to highlight a small number of literary motifs as they richochet down the ages in a variety of cultural forms, culminating in these strange stories in Middle English that Hannah was so intrigued by. These motifs resonate down through pre-Christian European mythologies and legends, artistry and artifacts, and reappear once again in the surprisingly bizarre stories that were obviously popular to a broad section of the population of medieval England. They have even found ripples extending into the works of English poets like Geoffrey Chaucer, Edmund Spenser and William Blake. Quintin and Miranda have taken some mysterious motifs and focussed their research into seeking them out wherever they can find them, over three thousand years of European cultural expression.
As they have explored these motifs, one in particular has struck them by its sheer ubiquity; so much so that they have split it into four parts, any two or three of which are represented to varying degrees everywhere they have looked, be it in Arthurian legend, Irish mythology, Ancient Greek philosophy or Homeric epic. And this has given them an idea for their own analogy. For this motif is endemic within the whole genre of medieval romance, and it can be traced back, they believe, through Welsh and Scandinavian mythology to the drama and mythology of ancient Greece, where it is clearly used as a metaphor for something else. That motif is disguise, the concealment of identity, the exchange of identity or the hiding of a person's origins. Some instances of disguise or the concealment of identity in medieval romance are so unbelieveable as to be ludicrous. As if you wouldn't recognise your best friend when you met him again ten years later, or after a few months spent in a forest. As if your wife wouldn't recognise you after a year or two away! It is the deep significance of these very strange but common plot elements that seems to be crying out for an explanation, and that they have sought to explain.
So they have created their own analogy; at least, with Quintin's encouragement (he has studied geology). The literary motifs are like metro tunnels snaking their way through the sediments beneath a city; sediments that lie on top of one another, older lying beneath younger, Arthurian legend resting upon Welsh mythology which in turn rests upon ancient European religion but all derived from the same uplands, eroded from the same motherlode, and containing enough of the motifs to betray a shared nature. As you go along these metro tunnels and explore the motifs, following your own unique path, you will come to appreciate this similarity.