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Summary of The Lais of Marie de France: Chapter 5 "Lanval"

Summary of Marie de France's The Lais of Marie de France Lanval


King Arthur had come to Carlisle, because of an ongoing feud between the Scots and Picts. That summer at Pentecost, the king gave out wives and land to all of his knights, except Lanval, who the king had forgotten. All the other knights were envious of his skills, beauty, and generosity; so no one spoke up on his behalf. Lanval came from nobility; he was the son of a king. Lanval was broke, but did not ask the king for any money nor did the king give him any. Lanval spent his days sad and alone.

One day, Lanval decided to go for a ride, and when he came to a beautiful meadow he decided to stop there. He lay down next to a stream, and looked around. He saw to women coming towards him; they were very beautiful, and dressed in tight, dark purple tunics. The women came up to him, and told him that their damsel wished to see him. Lanval followed the girls back to their tent. The tent was very beautiful and richly decorated; no king would have been able to afford it. He went in and saw the damsel lying on a bed. She was "clad only in her shift. Her body was well formed and handsome, and in order to protect herself from the heat of the sun, she had cast about her a costly mantle of white ermine covered with Alexandrian purple. Her side, though, was uncovered, as well as her face, neck, and breast; she was whiter than the hawthorn blossom" (74).

She called for Lanval to come and sit by her. She told him that she had searched for him and that she loved him. Lanval immediately fell in love with her. Lanval promised to do whatever she asked of him, and told her that he never wanted to part from her. She gave him a boon, which would give him anything that he desired. There was only one catch, Lanval could not tell anyone about her; if he did tell someone, he would lose her forever. After they spent some time together, she told him that he had to leave, but whenever he wanted her, she would come to him.

Lanval left and rode to where his men were. When he arrived, he saw that they were all dressed very well. No one could explain how or why this happened. Lanval lavished everyone with gifts and hospitality; he gave to everyone equally. No one went hungry or without a bed to sleep in.




One day, about thirty knights went to relax beneath the Queens tower. Gawain spoke to his fellow knights saying that they had left Lanval behind and should go and get him. They did and Lanval retuned with them to the garden. The queen saw Lanval from her window, and decided to go down to see him. Lanval withdrew from the rest of the knights and sat by himself. The queen went over to him and told him that she loved him. Lanval rejected her. The queen became angry, and said that the rumor about him liking boys was true. Lanval quickly responded by saying that he did love a woman, and even one of his lady's poorest servants was worth more than the queen.

The queen went off in a hurry, humiliated. She went to the king and told him that Lanval had hit on her, and when she denied him her love, he insulted her. She told the king that Lanval had boasted that he a beloved that was better than her, even one of his beloved's servants was better than her. The king became very angry. In the meantime, Lanval went back to his lodgings, and called for his beloved, but she wouldn't come. The king sent men to retrieve Lanval. Lanval denied everything, except the part about his beloved. He said that he would accept any punishment that he was sentenced to. The king called his men to pass judgment on Lanval, but they decided to wait until there were more men there to consult. Lanval was released until the trial, and not long after this, the rest of the men came to the king's court. All of the men felt sorry for Lanval, because they knew he was not guilty, and they begged him to prove what he had told the king. Lanval told them that he could not prove it, because his beloved would not help him.

The men were about to give their verdict when two ladies came towards them. They were very beautiful. Gawain and some other knights asked Lanval if one of them was his beloved, and Lanval said that he didn't know them. The women told them to ready a room for them, because their lady wanted to stay with the king. The women were led to chamber.

The king called once again for the verdict, but then two more ladies showed up. Once again Lanval was asked if one of them was his beloved and Lanval once again said that he didn't know them. The king asked for the verdict again, but just then a very beautiful woman on a white palfrey rode up. Lanval announced that she was his beloved. The lady spoke to the king telling him that she had loved Lanval for some time, and everything that the queen accused him of was false. The king released Lanval, and the lovers rode off together to Avalon.

Sources

The Lais of Marie de France. Trans. Glyn S. Burgess. New York: Penguin, 1999.

Published on July 25, 2014 by Sophia Brookshire © All Rights Reserved

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