The legendary works of Lanval and Sir Gawain provides a positive human state of loyalty and honor that will truly boost the persona of these two individuals. Different portrayal of roles which will lead to a channel of similarities and differences was the focal point of scrutinizing these two masterpieces. In addition, upon exploring these two different works considering the positive and / or negative human state, attitude and characteristics, it is imperative to determine the strengths of Lanval and Sir Gawain by using these criteria.
The story of Lanval reverses the typical conventions in romance as the maiden rescues the knight instead of the usual approach that men took the first move. In the event wherein Lanval walk away going nowhere, he looses his mind with and unfortunately his horse did not make to serve him and no other way but Lanval let go of his horse Apparently there were ladies along the way who came across with whom presents great attitude of accommodating him. As this two ladies approach Lanval, there was a prior intention of leading Lanval to the queen. In Marie de France’s Lanval “These two ladies came straightaway / To the place where Lanval lay / Lanval, mannerly, well-bred / quickly scrambled to his feet / The ladies spoke, first to greet / Him, then with a message they said / Lord Lanval, the lady we owe duty / A lady of valor, wisdom and beauty / It’s for you our lady has sent / Us.
Now come along with us, do! / Safely we’ll conduct you through / Not far – look, you can see her tent!” (6.1-12). Despite the eagerness of the queen to establish a discreet relationship, Lanval in return cannot take the pleasure being offered to him, thus, he neglected to pursue such tempting emotion. “For her kiss, her embrace, her touch / Little he cares about other’s delight / When he can’t enjoy his own! / The queen saw him go off alone / And she headed straight for that knight / She sat near him, she called him over / she spoke as her heart would move her / Lanval, I really so respect you / I really care, I really love / And you can have all my love / Tell me what you want! I expect you / Must be happy at what I say / I’m offering to go all the way / Lady, he said, let me go! / I never thought to love you so! / I’ve served the king for many a day / His faith in me I won’t betray / Not for you, your love, or anything / Would I ever act against my king!” (13.1-19).
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It came to the point that the queen became desperate for the reason that Lanval still hold his emotion and stay in being loyal. Out of which the queen claims that Lanval maltreated her and even come to the point that Lanval was put in trial because of the anger of Queen Guinevere. “The King had just come home from the wood / His day's hunting had been good / He went into the Queen's chamber / She cried out, loud, when first she / Saw him, fell at his feet, begged mercy / Accused Lanval--he had shamed her! / He'd asked her for a love-affair / She'd said no, with this result / He'd offered her an ugly insult / He boasted of a friend so fair / So full of pride, breeding, honor / That the chambermaid who waited on her / The lowliest, poorest of the poor / Compared to the Queen, was worth far more / The King was angry, to the core / His oath against Lanval he swore / In court he'd prove he was no liar / Or else he'd hang, or die by fire / The King left the Queen's bedroom / Called three of his barons to him / Sent them to bring in Lanval” (15.1-21).
On the other hand, the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knights epitomize the attitude of having a word of honor but unfortunately in the case of Sir Gawain, he did not make it up to the end. The game is that the challenger gets a chance to hit the Green Knight but in a year and a day, he must go to the Green Knight's chapel and then the Green Knight will test him and if he fails the tests, the Green Knight will hit him. Sir Gawain being the youngest knight in the round table unfolds the challenge of battling with the Green Knight and continue with the pact that goes with the confront which was after a year of the fight the conqueror will go to Green Chapel to get a blow in return if he does not meet the ordeal.
As Sir Gawain was on his way to the said place after a year, he was able to meet Bertilak. “Sir, if you be Gawain, it seems a great wonder / A man so well-meaning, and mannerly disposed / And cannot act in company as courtesy bids” (lines 1126 – 1997). As Sir Gawain reached the place, challenges were headed for him, which in fact was very symbolic in nature. Temptations occurs which in turn he get hold of a girdle. Bertilak which happens to be the Green Knight also put him into the test as they come to the exchange of winnings. Unfortunately, Sir Gawain fails to be loyal and honest as he fails to utter the girdle that he has.
Both these stories present exciting analytical relationship taking into account honor and courtly love. It is of great pride of the character’s portrayal on how their outlook will affect their decisions up to the end which will make them a hero of their own. Compare and contrast these two poems is the focal point of this paper. In addition, at the end of this paper, identifying the similarities and differences of both works was essential in the analysis of the subject matter.
Compare and Contrast: Lanval & Sir Gawain
Loyalty was clearly illustrated in both characters. It is of great value to take note how this certain attitude transform their individuality. Lanval promises not to reveal the identity of his mistress. Even when Queen Guinevere attempts to seduce Lanval, he refuses temptation because of her loyalty to his lover – the fairy maiden. Evidently, the foundation of such loyalty was rooted in the character of his lover. On the other hand, Sir Gawain takes the challenge for King Arthur in response to his loyalty to his master. He also honors the pact of one year and one day and took the chance of fighting with beast in order to render the pact of their duel. Sir Gawain has the will to sacrifice in order to hold on his word to the point that he almost experience starving just to keep his promise.
In lieu of their loyalty, they established within themselves the honor which gives them the pride. Lanval embrace his word up to the end even if he goes through a trial, he faces it with pride and honor. He did not endure the accusations of the queen and faces its challenges. On the other note, Sir Gawain seize his honor as he dwell on the challenges of the concordat up to the end. He did not even open a single door to have second thought to pursue the battle with the Green Knight and thus, give him ultimate honor.
As regards to feelings, both the character of Lanval and Sir Gawain experienced to have intense love – the one for a certain maiden and the latter was a love for the self. It could be different in criteria but both give them the strength to live. The pursuance of ones love ultimately gives them the drive to stand rigid and hold on what would make them tough. Definitely, as the character of Lanval and Sir Gawain defeats temptation, this love boosts their grip on the road to being strong.
It brightens the lives of Lanval and Sir Gawain as their powerful love bestow them hope. Lanval even if he’s on trial and in any moment will destroy the life that he has, he consistently hold onto the hope that the truth will prevail – whatever accusations of the queen towards Lanval, it will not persist because it just present an opaque scenario of events which did not occur in the first place. In Marie de France’s Lanval “On the day set for the trial / The barons have traveled many a mile / To be there; the Queen’s there, and the King / And now Lanval’s hostages bring / Him in. They’re so sorry for him / A hundred knights or more, I guess / Would have done anything for him / So he could walk free away from the case / So wrongful are the accusations!” (20.1-9).
The people will stand for Lanval as they witness the unreasonable accusations that queen bequeath on Lanval. Parallel to this, as to the case of Sir Gawain, as he faces the challenge of the Green Knight, his will sustains his hope. The more he pursues the pact, the more it will give him peace of mind. Thus holding on the aspiration of victory gives him hope.
Guilt also took part in the characters stance and make plausible comparison. As regard to Lanval’s encounter with the queen, even if he was very much aware that the personality of the queen might be ruin, Lanval still insist with his determination to stand to what he believes is right – and that is to be loyal with his lover. As to the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, in consequence of Sir Gawain’s encounter with challenges in Green’s Chapel, the host gives him kisses in return for his success, however he did not follow to what they agreed prior the battle, he did not give all of his winnings which gives him the guilt and thus consistently wear the girdle around his arm as a sign of his culpability.
The act of sincerity comes into account as we weigh the guilt which was instill in the hearts and minds of the characters. Both Lanval and Sir Gawain were sincere in their craft. With no hesitance, they face the consequences of their chosen field. Fear was the major hindrance to their established characters.
Both personas disregard pleasure and pain. The act of cynicism was present in Lanval and Sir Gawain. Courtly love was taken into account in these two characters. Lanval epitomized his sincerity and love for his fairy maiden as he kept surpassing the barriers of their relationships. On the other hand the host going to the Green Chapel touches the heart of Sir Gawain in one way or the other as he sealed himself in exchanging his winnings with the Green Knight specifically with the girdle that he got from the host. Sense of mortality was present as it has a feeling of commonality in both presented poems. These nearly pass the same life cycle as its main character being portrayed by Lanval and Sir Gawain almost has the same channel – a sense of preciousness of time and life.
Good things happen to good people. Lanval broke his promise, and Sir Gawain broke his promise. But nothing bad happened to either. They learned from their mistake and they were regretful. Both authors show that after all, humans will be humans, and humans are capable of mistakes, no matter how honorable their past has been.
Both the female characters are not loyal to their husbands. Neither is Queen Guinevere or the host’s wife. Both try to seduce another man and attempt to sleep with other man. Men are more loyal than women in these two works.
On another note, there were also opposing instances in these poems. The works differ in loyalty. Sir Gawain lied to protect his life while Lanval lied to protect his mistress’ honor. Furthermore, as regards to the sense of guilt, Lanval did not felt a single guilt at the end as he chose to stand firm on what he believe was right. Lanval just ride off to Avalon with his lover – as if it was okay for him to break his code of silence. On the Contrary, there was a feeling of guilt in Sir Gawain since he was not honest in exchanging his winnings and in consequence of his remorse; he wears his girdle in his arms.
Lanval and Sir Gawain show the interconnection of their stories as well as their temperaments. In one way or the other, there was resemblance with their stories and it presents a good basis of comparison.
“LANVAL” Marie de France, translated Judith P. Shoaf ©1991, 2005
Stone, Brian. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. British Library. 1974
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