This post is to let you know of a new text file involving that premier medieval female author, Marie de France. It contains the Old French text of her delightful story Bisclavret together with a side-by-side English translation.
It is generally proposed that Marie was a French-speaking “religious” (nun) of aristocratic origin living in England in the latter half of the 12th century (overlapping with the reigns of Henry II Plantagenet and his two sons). She is responsible for a number of texts in Old French, but by far the most popular and influential and enjoyable is her collection of 12 “lays,” narrative French verse versions of Celtic tales of wonder.
She may have first encountered these stories in performances by itinerant Welsh- or Breton-speaking minstrels. Like many another aristocratic French-speaker of her day, she was much taken with them. Being also very well-educated (which meant among other things that she could read and write) and with time to spare, she decided to compose a version of them in her own language, to the delight of many.
All the lays involve something preternatural. The marvelous element in this particular tale, Bisclavret, is very familiar to modern movie-goers and readers of supernatural fiction: lycanthropy (=werewolvery). The hero is an otherwise decent human being who is obliged to spend three days of every week in animal form. His wife weasels (!) his secret out of him, and what happens after that is surprising, dismaying, heart-warming, and horrifying by turns, all of it fast-paced.
Old French and modern English are placed side by side, so you can check my translation for accuracy if you feel so inclined.
If you want to see other files with medieval content on Mad Beppo, there are these three dealing with the great Arthurian romancier Chrétien de Troyes:
There is also a discussion of pride in the Chanson de Roland, and another lay by Marie de France I have translated: Lanval. (This is one of the greatest of medieval fairy tales, used as a model of the genre by both J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.) If there is popular demand for it, I may end up translating all Marie’s lays.
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