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July 25, 2014

Bisclavret- The Lais of Marie de France- Summary

Bisclavret- The Lais of Marie de France- Summary

There was a baron named Bisclavret, who lived in Brittany, and was well loved by all. He was his lord's closest advisor. His wife was greatly worried, because each week, he was left for three days without any explanation. One day, she asked him where he went. She told him that she thought he had a lover. He told her that if he were to tell her where he went, he would lose her forever.

The lady wore her husband down and he told her that he was a werewolf. She asked him if he went around naked or if he wore his clothes. He told her that he went around naked. She then asked him where he leaves his clothes while he is a werewolf. He told her that he cannot tell anyone, because if he loses his clothes, he will be stuck as a werewolf forever. She managed to convince him to tell her, that he hides them at an old chapel, under a hollowed out stone. The lady became very afraid, and started thinking of ways to leave him. She sent for a knight that had been trying to court her for some time, and offered to love him. All the knight had to do was to steal her husband's clothes; so that he couldn't become human again, which the knight gladly did. Everyone assumed that he had left for good, because he was gone so much. They sent out search parties, but there was no trace of him.

A year went by without any word from him. One day the king decided to go hunting near where Bisclavret was last seen. The hounds found Bisclavret, and the rest of the day the knights and hounds were in pursuit of him. They finally caught up to him, and Bisclavret ran up to the king and kissed his foot and leg. The king ordered that no one was to strike the beast; it seemed that he possessed some humanity. Bisclavret folled the king back to his castle and remained there with him. The king loved him very dearly. Bisclavret slept next to the king and the other knights.

The king decided to hold court, and all the knights in the country came. When Bisclavret spotted the knight that had both married his wife and taken his clothes, he bit him. The king called him off, but Bisclavret made several attempts to harm the knight. Finally, all the knights left.

The king went off into the woods where Bisclavret had been found. He stayed in the area, and Bisclavret's wife went to see him, bringing him a lavish present. When Bisclavret saw her, he tore off her nose. Everyone threatened his life for what he had done to the lady. A wise man pointed out that Bisclavret had not done anything like this the entire time he had been with the king; so there must be something about this lady and her new husband that offends him. The king questioned and tortured the lady, and she told him everything. The king ordered her to go and get the clothes. He took the clothes from her and set them before Bisclavret, but nothing happened. The wise man said that it would be humiliating for him to change into his human form before the king; so they took and put his clothes in the king's chamber. They left him alone for a while, and when the king went back into the room, he found Bisclavret asleep on the bed. The lady and her new husband were exiled. All of her daughters were born without noses.


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