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The Lais of Marie de France

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3.86  ·  Rating details ·  5,303 Ratings  ·  214 Reviews
This is a prose translation of the lais or poems attributed to Marie de France. Little is known of her but she was probably the Abbess of the abbey at Shaftesbury in the late 12th century, illegitimate daughter of Geoffrey Plantagenet and hence the half-sister of Henry II of England. It was to a king, and probably Henry II, that she dedicated these poems of adventure and l ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published March 25th 1999 by Penguin Classics (first published 1160)
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Warwick
Marie de France was an aristocratic twelfth-century poet, from whose name we conclude that she was apparently living somewhere other than France when she wrote her most famous works. Probably England: she writes in Anglo-Norman, which is an important language for anyone interested in the history of English because it's the source of so many borrowings. Marie was probably attached to the court of Henry II (who, I need scarcely remind you, was himself French and spoke no English), but apart from t ...more
Roshani Chokshi
Hello senior thesis.
Tim Poston
Dec 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
These stories by a 12th Century abbess have everything! Love and treason and a noble betrayed werewolf ... Stephenie Meyer eat your decadent, twinkling little heart out.
The English is a little stiff, because it sets out to be very close to the mediaeval French poetry, but the power comes through. Amazing these lais are not more famous.

I can't resist one extended quote:
'Lord,' she said, 'please come hunting in the forest in the region where I live. Stay in my husband's castle, be bled there an
...more
Nikki
I studied Guigemar and Bisclavret, and I ended up wanting to read the rest of Marie de France's lais. Bisclavret is one of my favourites, really, possibly due to reading William Burgwinkle's criticism of it and being amused to see it as a gay love story. Most of the lais are short and very easy to read, dwelling on knights and their lovers. I quite liked Lanval, as well, the Arthurian lai. Some of them have little morals in them, some of them are just sweet little stories (or sometimes rather bi ...more
Lauren
Feb 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Marie de France is my homegirl forever.
Roman Clodia
Jun 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
There's so much that we don't know about the lais in this volume which we have from the Harley manuscript in the BL: we don't know exactly when they were composed (though sometime in the later 12th century), or in what order, who 'Marie de France' was, and who the king to whom she dedicated them (Henry II?) - we don't even know for sure that she was a woman (though, like other scholars, I'm fairly confident that she was from the content of her poems). What we have are these twelve short tales, o ...more
Judy
Apr 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is fascinating. How did I get through so many years of schooling without hearing about these lais or Marie de France? This was translated from medieval French verse to English prose by Naomi Lewis. I suppose French scholars might want to read these lais in original form, but these worked well for me. And I appreciate the prose form. It's hard enough to translate into another language/culture/and era without also trying to write in verse.

These are all tales of love ... love lost, love jealou
...more
Shawn
Reading this has helped me pinpoint why I often don't find it all that enjoyable to read these sorts of translations of fairy tales and folk tales. The writing is almost always quite clunky, and in this case, where we have prose translations of lais originally written in rhyming verse, it seems that a great deal of the original beauty is lost. I think I much prefer books along the lines of The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, which interpret the stories rather than just awkwardly translate them ...more
Denise E.
Sep 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I wanna do a translation of Bisclaveret. If anyone wants to help me, here is what I've got so far.

While engaged in making lais,
I would not want to forget Bisclavret.
Bisclavret in Brittany was born
Called Garulf by the Norms.
Erstwhile, people told the tale
And often you would hear occur,
That many men werewolves became
And set up households in the wood.
A werewolf is a savage beast;
Because at least when fully stirred,
He eats up men and does great bad,
Travelling and living in that wood.
But it must b
...more
Briana
Jan 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics, medieval
The Lais of Marie de France is the perfect medieval read for anyone who enjoys fairytales. Each short story features elements that fans of the genre will recognize and love—beautiful women trapped in towers, daring knights who perform feats of arms to capture their attention, mysterious boats that sail themselves. One is even about a king who creates a contest for the hand of his daughter in marriage: any men who can carry her straight up the nearby mountain without resting can have her.

However,
...more
Beth
Mar 08, 2013 rated it liked it
This collection of tales written by a 12th century French woman presents us not only with enchanting stories in the vein of Arthurian legends, but also a glimpse into the controversies over love, marriage, and the role of women during the Middle Ages. These tales (poems in the original, but rendered as prose in this translation) were likely written during the lifetime of Eleanor of Aquitaine – the strong-willed woman who ended up as Queen of both France and England (at different times) and in ma ...more
Siria
Marie de France is one of the earliest known female authors, though we know little about her beyond her name, that she wrote in French and was evidently of French origin, and that she spent part of her life in England. To that extent, I found myself interested by these stories, and from a historical perspective there's a lot here. But my problem with the stories—and the reason why I'm a socio-economic historian and not a scholar of literature—is that they reflect such different sensibilities fro ...more
Leonie
Jan 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: twelfth-century
Really charming little fairy-taleish stories about well-born once-upon-a-time people and their relationship problems. The most striking thing to a modern reader is the adultery thing. There's not really a taboo around it, though a lot of the women have very jealous husbands who aren't keen on it. One lady makes her lover swear he believes in God before she'll sleep with him. It's like they're enthusiastic about this Christianity thing but haven't quite got the hang of it.

This really delivers on
...more
Maan Kawas
Jan 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful and absorbing.. These Breton lais take you to a magical world of knights and chivalry, courtliness, and love and suffering. I enjoyed reading them so much, but, I was a bit surprised to see that some lais address extramarital relationships and marital infidelity, adulterous relationship and illegitimate children in a positive way, a thing which I did not expect in the Medieval literature. However, I found the narration and images enchanting, and the prose translation was smooth and bea ...more
ifjuly
Mar 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
read this over the course of a quiet evening alone with a glass of wine. wonderful. i love sensualists, even if they get religious. reminds me of that one pessoa heteronym, i forget his name, who spends all his poems singing out about how knowing what a blade of grass or a rock IS has nothing to do with words or meaning or anything but just being, and its being being near his own. people who sing about that are essential for me...
Neave
Apr 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lit-class-review
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sofía
Nov 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: inglesa
Cuanta agresividad
Themightyx
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Lanval is my favorite Arthurian legend of all time. <3
Védís
Jan 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Strengleika Maríu frönsku þekkja íslenskir miðaldafræðingar vel, enda voru þeir þýddir á norrænu á 13. öld við hirð Hákonar Hákonarsonar Noregskonungs. Þessi bók geymir prósaþýðingu á upprunalegum engilnormönskum texta Maríu.

Strengleikarnir eru fallegar litlar smásögur, eða ljóðsögur, sem fjalla um ástina og hirðina - gjarnan ást í meinum. Sú staðreynd að sú sem setti þá saman er kona dregur ekki úr áhuga mínum á þeim nema síður sé - ekki eru til margir þekktir kvenkyns miðaldahöfundur. María va
...more
Madeline
Sep 09, 2009 rated it liked it
It was mostly entertaining. It's a collection of lais (short fairy tales, basically) all written by this woman we know basically nothing about. My favorite story was probably "Bisclavret", which is a werewolf story written from the werewolf's perspective. Also he bites his evil wife's nose off, which is kind of cool. The rest of the stories, it must be said, can fall easily into several categories: unfaithful wife/husband, magical lovers, wives locked in towers, and for some reason at least two ...more
Jaimie
Aug 10, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know a lot about Medieval French poetry, but I can definitely see why the mysterious Marie de France is so well known among medieval writers. Her stories (written in the form of lais/lays) are both entertaining (who doesn't like romanticized knights) and are a definitive product of her time. Obviously the stories are quite outlandish, but we can actually tell quite a bit about how people living at her time were. Twin pregnancies could have definitely been perceived as omens of infidelity ...more
Miriam Joy
I enjoyed revisiting these (and my marginalia from last year), but I'm totally baffled by my essay question, which is about queer readings of the text. I don't normally struggle to find queer subtext, but the majority of these stories couldn't be straighter. I must be missing something, because I wouldn't have had a question like this if there was nothing to say. I'll have to tackle the critical material tomorrow and see what I can figure out.
Kay
Feb 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The first time I read The Lais was in my senior seminar but since then - I can't count how many times I've picked it up and read a few before bed. The Lais is like a collection of fairy tales for adults - including lessons. If Marie de France lived today she would be probably be famous as a screenplay writer. She is witty and fasinating.
Dorothy
Feb 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fantasy fans, medievalists, women writers
Recommended to Dorothy by: my chaucer professor
Epic romance, talking beasts, mysterious magics...oh, and a werewolf. Marie de France's lais are the very bones of what Western fantasy literature is made of. People talk about Tolkien being the first, or maybe Dunsany, or Morris. Nah, it goes all the way back to the medieval poets themselves. And Marie is my favorite.
Leah
Sep 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Marie took over my dissertation (and my life) for several months. Even after dissertation (AD) I'm able to love her! Each lai is a gem. She was post-modern in the Middle Ages. Her voice rings clear and true. Her stories are magical.
Othy
Jul 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Marie's tales are a ton of fun and quite a bit interesting as well. This edition, though it contains endnotes and a few footnotes, is mostly concerned with interpreting (which are mostly good, though general in scope).
Mike
Mar 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: textbooks
The translator's work here is very well done. The translation isn't versified, but the prose lends itself to clarity and a brisk narrative.
Susan
Feb 17, 2007 rated it liked it
"Whoever has good material for a story is grieved if the tale is not well told. Hear, my lords, the words of Marie, who, when she has the opportunity, does not squander her talents." Indeed.
C.B. Cook
Not my favorite. Had to read some of it for school, but I probably wouldn't read any more. It's, um... very sensual. Mostly-naked ladies and such. Wouldn't recommend it.
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Marie de France ("Mary of France", around 1135-1200) was a poet evidently born in France and living in England during the late 12th century. Virtually nothing is known of her early life, though she wrote a form of continental French[citation needed:] that was copied by Anglo-Norman scribes. Therefore, most of the manuscripts of her work bear Anglo-Norman traits. She also translated some Latin lite ...more
More about Marie de France...
“Whoever believes in a man is very foolish.” 7 likes
“Be sure that you speak with unfeigned lips.” 5 likes
More quotes…