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Lanval And Yonec Essay

1687 words - 7 pages

Often times in literature the body becomes a symbolic part of the story. The body may come to define the character, emphasize a certain motif of the story, or symbolize the author’s or society’s mindset. The representation of the body becomes significant for the story. In the representation of their body in the works of Marie de France’s lais “Lanval” and “Yonec,” the body is represented in opposing views. In “Lanval,” France clearly emphasizes the pure beauty of the body and the power the ideal beauty holds, which Lanval’s Fairy Queen portrays. In France’s “Yonec,” she diverts the reader’s attention from the image of the ideal body and emphasizes a body without a specific form and fluidity between the forms. “Yonec” focuses on a love not based on the body. Although the representations of the body contradict one another, France uses both representation to emphasize the private and, in a way, unearthly nature of love that cannot be contained by the human world. In both lais, the love shared between the protagonists is something that is required to be kept in private and goes beyond a single world into another world.
In France’s “Lanval,” Marie de France emphasizes the ideal and pure body of Lanval’s Fairy Queen. France describes the Fairy Queen as “elegant, her hips slim, her neck whiter than snow on a branch, her eyes bright, her face white, a beautiful mouth…” (France, 109). The Fairy Queen is presented to the reader as the classic, ideal beauty that captures the attention and, unknowingly, the mind of her lover. After meeting the Fairy Queen, Lanval pledges his life to her. He states, “There is nothing you might command, within my power, that I would not do, whether foolish or wise. I shall obey your command…” (France, 108). The Fairy Queen did not plan to dominate Lanval’s mind, but her beauty allowed her to do so without prior intentions. The Fairy Queen controls the dynamics of their relationship. They meet and separate whenever the Fairy Queen feels the need to. The Fairy Queen’s beauty gives her power and control over Lanval. The concept of beauty as a method of control for women is not something new.
Lori Baker-Sperry and Liz Grauerholz discuss the concept of female empowerment through beauty in their article “The Pervasiveness and Persistence of the Feminine Beauty Ideal in Children’s Fairy Tale.” Baker-Sperry and Grauerholz state that, “women willingly engage in ‘beauty rituals’ and perceive being (or becoming) beautiful as empowering, not oppressive” (712). Baker-Sperry and Grauerholz argue that in children’s fairy tales, the female characters see their beauty as their most useful tool and would undergo “beauty rituals” to attain this beauty. By being beautiful, the Fairy Queen is able to win the attention and loyalty of Lanval. Not only does the Fairy Queen receive power in this bond, but also Lanval himself finds good fortune in the form of physical wealth. To further emphasize the Fairy Queen’s beauty and the power she holds...

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