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Home School Life Journal
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales
painting by Katie Bergenholtz

Medieval Literature, part 4: Brittany, Marie de France and Bisclavret

Previous post: Spanish Literature and Le Cid.
Marie de France from an illuminated manuscript
Since I'm making lais, Bisclavret
Is one I don't want to forget.
In Breton, "Bisclavret"'s the name;
"Garwolf" in Norman means the same.
Long ago you heard the tale told--
And it used to happen, in days of old--
Quite a few men became garwolves,
And set up housekeeping in the woods.
A garwolf is a savage beast,
While the fury's on it, at least:
Eats men, wreaks evil, does no good,
Living and roaming in the deep wood.
Now I'll leave this topic set.
I want to tell you about Bisclavret. -translation of Bisclavret


Bisclavret, or The Werewolf is one of the twelve Lais of Marie de France written in the 12th century. Originally written in French, it tells the story of a werewolf who is trapped in lupine form by the treachery of his wife. The tale is thought to be referenced in Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. Marie de France heard them performed in the Breton (of Brittany) language and translated this lay, as well as the eleven others. The Duchy of Brittany was a medieval tribal and feudal state that existed between approximately 939 and 1547. Its territory covered the northwestern peninsula of Europe. A lay is a lyrical, narrative poem written in octosyllabic couplets that often deals with tales of adventure and romance. Marie de France is known for using a marvel as a plot device. A marvel is a strange, exotic, sometimes magical, element upon which the story hinges.

We read this translation, which I found free online, which is simple enough for the younger readers. Older readers may prefer to read from Robert Hanning's translation, The Lais of Marie de France. Both abandon the original's octosyllabic couplets for free verse so that the brevity and simplicity of the verse are preserved.

sources:
  • I used this study years ago with my daughter, who graduated a few years ago. Because of this, I am not sure if I made this unit up entirely myself or if I found some of it on the internet. If you know if any of this has come from a source I have not credited, please let me know, and I will make the appropriate corrections.


Our next lesson will be about Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

1 comment:

  1. I think my boys would find a lesson on werewolves interesting.

    ReplyDelete

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