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Launfal - An Ancient Metrical Romance Cover Image

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Paperback, by Read Books

ISBN10: 144553360X | ISBN13: 9781445533605

Sir Launfal is a 1045-line Middle English romance or Breton lay written by Thomas Chestre dating from the late-14th century. It is based primarily on the 538-line Middle English poem Sir Landevale, which in turn was based on Marie de France's lai Lanval, written in a form of French understood in the courts of both England and France in the 12th century. Sir Launfal retains the basic story told by Marie de France and retold in Sir Landevale, augmented with material from an Old French lai Graelent and a lost romance that possibly featured a giant named Sir Valentyne. This is in line with Thomas Chestre's eclectic way of creating his poetry.
In the tale, Sir Launfal is propelled from wealth and status – the steward at King Arthur's court – to being a pauper and a social outcast. He is not even invited to a feast in his home town of Caerleon in South Wales when the king visits, although Arthur knows nothing of this. Out in the forest alone, he meets with two damsels who take him to their mistress, the daughter of the King of Faerie. She gives him untold wealth and a magic bag in which money can always be found, on the condition that he becomes her lover. She will visit him whenever he wants and nobody will see her or hear her. But he must tell nobody about her, or her love will vanish at that instant.
The story of a powerful (fairy) woman who takes a lover on condition that he obey a particular prohibition is common in medieval poetry: the French lais of Desiré, Graelant, and Guingamor, and Chrétien de Troyes's romance Yvain, the Knight of the Lion, all share similar plot elements. The presence of a Land of Faerie, or an Otherworld, betrays the story's Celtic roots. A final court scene may be intended by Chestre as criticism of the contemporary legal and judicial framework in late-fourteenth century England.[4] The equation of money with worth in the tale may satirize a late-fourteenth century bourgeois mentality.

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