Property of the King: Life of Medieval Women in Beowulf and Lanval
History has been recorded throughout time in stories, books, poems and other literary works. These writings give historians and readers of the present day valuable insights into the lifestyles, beliefs, society, economics, politics and pagan religion of the time period they originate. Authors are greatly influenced by the beliefs and attitudes of their own society and time. The works they write provide a window to the past that allows us to peak through and see what life was like for the people of that particular history. Middle Age literary works show the reader of the present who the people were, what was important to them, and how they lived. In a culture
with limited literacy and few surviving texts, works such as Beowulf and Lanval are extremely important factors in establishing these important historical aspects. The one thing that is apparent
is the dominance of the purely patriarchal society. The heroic code, courage in battle, bravery,loyalty to tribes and kings, place in social order, religion and chivalrous courtly love were what
this society was primarily based on. The practices and beliefs that were the stronghold of Medieval society included men and excluded women. In this predominantly male world, one is
compelled to ask the question; Where do women fit into this patriarchal Middle Age world? What are their roles? What are they valued for as women? Beowulf and Lanval paint a clear
picture of women in the Middle Ages. Both of these stories tell of a male world where women are valued as the property of their husbands. The women of Beowulf and Lanval are trapped in a life of duty. There role is that of child bearer, wife, hostess, and ornamental beauty. They are bound to their husbands, valued as 'peace weavers';, admired for their physical beauty, and have no power except the small influence they may have on their powerful husbands. Both Lanval and
Beowulf show the bleak reality of the life of the subservient powerless women with few differences.
Beowulf is written in a male perspective. The mention of women is few and far between. The mere fact that they play such a minor role in this story is a good indication that women are
not very important to this society. Some of the women that are mentioned in the story are not even given names. Beowulf's mother is not even considered important enough to repeat her name. Hrothgar is praising Beowulf when he remarks, 'Indeed, if she is still alive , that woman (whoever she was) who gave birth to such a son, to be one of humankind, may claim that the Creator was gracious to her in childbearing'; (Beowulf 50). Women in this epic tale were not only
valued for their childbearing skills but also for there role as 'peace weavers';. Freawaru and Hildeburh are given in marriage to strengthen peace ties between fighting clans. They are both
used to bargain temporary peace. Both women are left with...