Texts: Lanval


Judith Shoaf, trans, Lanval.
Hypertext Anglo-French/English edition, Judith Shoaf

Links about Marie

Lanval is a "lay" or "lais" (a short song). It was written by Marie de France. A short biograpy of Marie and an overview of her works and style is available from Judith Shoaf (updated here).

The poem is found along with all of her works in a single manuscript, British Library Harley 978. It was edited and printed by de Roquefort in 1819. He calls her the first woman to write verse in French and compares her to Sappho, one of the most important poets of ancient Greece, also a woman. You can see the full manuscript here.

Lanval is one of several poems that surveys fundamental tensions in Anglo-Norman society. After the Norman Invasion of 1066, Normans and Anglo-Saxons were coordinating their respective cultures as Normans extended their control of Britain north and west. Legal traditions were one area of tension. Lanval is a foreign knight (read, Norman) in an English court. Questions of loyalty, fidelity, honor, jurispudence, and so forth are behind the various images in this lais. Also significant are Marie's many symbols (or, rather, images that have standard associations). Kings and Queens on campaign resided in tents; purple is the color of royalty; plains represent sites of moral battle, forests represent wild nature, roads and paths represent consequences of choices, and so forth. Many of these standard associations are still with us.