Yvain the Knight of the Lion
Youth and Mortality in Herman Melville’s “On the Slain Collegians”
The winds of war strike all, and just as spring blossoms are blown from the trees falling white to the ground, young men are killed in their prime by war before they are able to bear the fruit of knowledge. Herman Melville observed the pre-war attitudes of the young men and their relations, and crafted a poem, “On the Slain Collegians”, on the futility of intentions in wake of a greater force. Herman Melville uses allusions, word choice and structure to convey the power of nature, the importance of knowledge, and how the folly of youth and culture does not stand immortal in the test of war.
The poem’s title is indicative of the subject of the poem, which is the death of many young men in the war who would have been in college. There is a footnote reference after the poem title that includes a note written by Melville about the poem:
The records of Northern colleges attest what numbers of our noblest youth went from them to the battlefield. Southern members of the same classes arrayed themselves on the side of Secession, while Southern seminaries controlled large quotas. Of all these, what numbers marched who never returned except on the shield.
Melville’s comparison of college enrollment numbers to war deaths inspires the subject of the poem and sets up the theme of education versus cultural ideals and the folly of youth. The comparison between education and cultural ideals begins in the second stanza. Melville describes the positive influence of college in lines 11-13: “The liberal arts and nurture sweet/ Which give his gentleness to man-/ Train him to honor, lend him grace”. Liberal arts are studied in universities, and its influence is described as nurture sweet. The use of the words “nurture” and “sweet” are usually used in positive contexts, as are “gentleness”, “honor”, and “grace”.
This description of education is contrasted with culture, described in lines 15-20:
That culture which makes never wan
With underminings deep, but holds
The surface still, its fitting place,
And so gives sunniness to the face
And bravery to the heart; what troops
Of generous boys in happiness thus bred-
Culture is described as having “underminings deep”. The undermining is being done by culture to education by giving boys the premise that war is a noble cause. Culture is also described as holding “the surface still”, and giving “sunniness to the face” of war. The word “gives” is important because it signifies that culture actively altered “the face”, and is creating a biased perception. One reading of these lines could be that cultural concepts such as heroism and romanticism of war are superficial(“holds the surface still”) and give the wrong impression(“gives sunniness to the face”). The boys were bred in happiness in regards to war, which is not the most appropriate attitude one should have when marching to their death on a “bloody bed”(24).
Melville uses nature imagery to emphasize the age of the men going to war. The first mention of nature occurs in lines 8-10. “Who can aloof remain/ That shares youth’s ardor, uncooled by the snow/ Of wisdom or sordid gain?” Snow and winter are common analogies for old age, and in this line the snow has not cooled youth. Nature imagery also appears in the third stanza. “And who felt life’s spring in time/ And were swept by the wind of their place and time-“(27-28) These lines refer to the disappearance of young men by being represented as spring, and are being swept by the winds of war. The idea of spring is also used later in the poem, where the most prominent use of natural imagery occurs in the last stanza. “Each bloomed and died an unabated Boy;”(54) This line emphasizes that the men died young. In line 54, the word “bloomed” is used rather than saying each was born. The use of blooming connects this part of the poem to previous parts describing the young men as spring. The word “Boy” is also capitalized in line 54. This is a stylistic use of capitalization, as the word is not at the beginning of the line, and it is not a proper noun. The use of capitalization in this instance emphasizes the youthfulness of the men along with the use of “bloomed” in the same line.
The last lines of the poem also contain nature imagery. “Like plants that flower ere the leaf-/ Which storms lay low in kindly doom, and kill them in their flush of bloom”(58-60). Some plants, such as certain trees, flower before leaves grow because wind pollination wouldn’t work well if the tree had leaves. However, flowers are also delicate, and if there is a heavy storm or strong wind the blossoms could be destroyed. The reference to wind was used earlier in the poem in the third stanza and relates to the end of the poem, so the storm and winds of war killed the blossoming young men.
There are also several mythology, history, and religion references throughout the poem, which are products of culture. The first reference is a biblical allusion in line six ,”(Though made the mask of Cain)”. The preceding and following lines give several motives for young men to go to war, and one motive is duty. This line immediately follows “duty shows” in the previous line and motives continue in the line after it, so “the mask of Cain” must refer to duty. Cain did not perform his duties to God because he did not give his best and did not have a good attitude. Performing duty may be argued to be a cultural value, and in the eyes of the speaker, is not a worthy cause for going to war.
A reference to Greek history occurs in the second stanza. “Saturnians through life’s tempe led”(21). Tempe is a valley in Greece that is historically significant because many battles have been fought there over time. It was also used as a main passageway for travel. Knowing the history of Tempe, an interpretation of line 21 could be that the men thought they would be passing through life as travelers passed through Tempe, but it became their final resting place. A reference to Greek mythology occurs in the third stanza. “Apollo-Like in pride,/ Each would slay his Python-caught”(33-34). Apollo sought to kill Python to avenge his mother, and it is clear in the myth that Apollo is the good character and Python is evil. Also, Apollo is the hero in the myth, and the young men desire to be a hero, which may be why their pride is described as Apollo-like. However, war is not so straightforward, as lines 35-40 describe.
A reference to religion occurs in the fourth stanza. “Each went forth with blessings given/ By priests and mothers in the name of Heaven”(42-43). Both North and South thought that God was on their side, but as suggested later in the stanza, the war may not have been right against wrong. Even prayers to God could not prevent the destruction caused by the war.
The empty universities post-civil war signify more than the loss of many lives, but the loss of intelligent beings. Among the dead may have been the next Aristotle, whose intelligence perished before it had the chance to come to fruition. Each man had the chance to become a leader, artist or scholar, but their ambitions were caught up in the fury of youth and perceptions of war. Herman Melville captured these sentiments in his poem, “On the Slain Collegians”, by using allusions, word choice and structure to convey the power of nature, importance of knowledge, and how the folly of youth and culture does not stand immortal in the test of war. This poem is an elegy to these young men who perished chasing their futures.
The Lion, the Christ, and the Portrayal: How Chrétien de Troyes reflects and criticizes medieval Christianity
During the Middle Ages, the connection between animals—or “beasts,” as they were so often referred to—and humans were often blurred, confused, and complicated overall. This state of uncertainty creates much difficulty with finding the true meaning and significance in the ways that these beasts are portrayed within literary texts. The uncertainty that inevitably coincides with this type of relationship, however, also allows space for authors to project their own purposes, views, and political agenda into their works. Oftentimes within these medieval texts the beasts, or other relationships between the beasts and humanity, are explored in order to characterize a particular concept, emotion, or even the potential relationship between the human and the divine. More specifically, lions are commonly used within the Bible to symbolize Jesus Christ himself, and that same animal is used within medieval literature to perform that same function. Though this allegorical involvement of animals could be used to express the story of the gospel, some authors may use this as a means to define and express their own views or experiences with Christianity itself. Chrétien de Troyes uses his own characterization of the lion, and its relationship and interactions with the knight Yvain, to personify the gospel message at work in The Knight with the Lion, defining the personal meaning behind this message along with challenging the expectations of medieval Christians.
The lion is an animal, according to David Badke’s Medieval Bestiary, is “the king of beasts.” That description alone is reminiscent of the title that Jesus Christ was given on the cross: “The King of the Jews” (New King James Version, John 19:19). The symbolic reference that a lion is Jesus Christ through that independent description however, just barely scratches the surface of how lions were used to depict a Christian figure. Joyce E. Salisbury, in her book The Beast Within: Animals in the Middle Ages, writes that, “lions sleep with their eyes open, showing that when Christ is buried, his Godhead remained awake…[The] bestiary writes that when a lioness gives birth to cubs they are born dead and remain so for three days until their father brings them to life by breathing on them, just as the Father brought Christ to life on the third day” (86). With this being common knowledge to a standard audience of the Middle Ages, the biblical significance and relationship of the inclusion of a lion within a written work would not be easily dismissed by that audience (Harris 1148): they would understand the lion’s biblical symbolism with little to no difficulty. Both descriptions of the lions within medieval literature make it apparent that lions were seen as powerful, loving, life-giving, mystical creatures that will forever go undefeated. This, too, closely reflects how Jesus was portrayed in the Bible, as perceived by medieval Christians. Chrétien de Troyes’ lion, however, does not display these qualities on the surface—and, in many ways, defies this aura or expectation of invincible, limitless power that other authors tend to assign to lions in their works.
When Chrétien introduces the lion as a character, it seems to display characteristics that are not usually attached to Christ-like figures. Chrétien writes, [Yvain] headed immediately towards the place where he had heard the cry, and when he arrived at a clearing, he saw a dragon holding a lion by the tail and burning its flanks with its flaming breath…He asked himself which of the two he would help. Then he determined that he would take the lion’s part, since a venomous and wicked creature deserves only harm: the dragon was venomous and fire leapt from its mouth because it was so full of wickedness. Therefore my lord Yvain determined that he would slay it first. (Chrétien 337) Here, this contrast between the lion and the dragon is significant. To show a lion— “associated with gods, lords, and heroes, represented as an emblem of defense and justice…[and] Christ” (Burns 68)—fatally dangling from the mouth of a dragon—associated with the “anti-Christ” and the “bloodthirsty” (Burns 68)—does not display any semblance of the all-powerful savior of humanity. Instead, Chrétien uses imagery that forces the audience to view the lion as helpless and desperately in need of a savior for itself—nonetheless, from a dragon. Since the dragon is associated with the Devil (as the lion is associated with Christ), their entire interaction seems to be a contradiction of the gospel message. The symbolic Messiah is helplessly dangling from the jaws of the symbolic Devil! This initially characterizes the lion as weak and incapable of fighting evil or wickedness—and these characteristics would project onto the idealization of who Jesus Christ was, and the potential reality of his level of power. Instead of Christ appearing as a noble warrior that cannot be defeated, this situation with the lion makes Christ look as if he was a helpless and useless creature that was incapable of performing the duties expected of him. Instead of dying and then defeating death, it appears as though Christ’s death was just a normal death—one that had no true significance, or any internalized power waiting to be awakened.
Upon further interpretive investigation, however, the imagery of this helpless creature most likely references the story of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. According to the gospel of Mark, when Christ was crucified, he cried out loudly, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” or, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). This situation almost directly reflects Yvain’s initial view of the lion: the lion cried out, and refused to fight back against the dragon in this moment even as it was literally hanging out of the dragon’s mouth. Jesus Christ, too, cried out, and did not fight against any authority forcing him to hang on the cross until death had overtaken him. Chrétien’s intent behind introducing the lion in such a helpless situation was not to make the lion appear weak or inadequate (and certainly not to force those qualities onto their perception of Christ), but rather to initially remind them of the brutality of Christ’s crucifixion, and the powerful redemption that resulted from his death conquering of death, and eventual resurrection.
This situation, as well, puts Yvain in a place to make a fate-determining decision: he must choose between good and evil. While Yvain does not assign any noble or messianic qualities to his perception of the lion in this particular moment, he does recognize and acknowledge the inherent evil and wickedness of the dragon. The dragon, too, was labeled the “king of the serpents,” contrasting the lion’s status as “king of the beasts.” In that moment, Yvain sides with the lion, ultimately choosing goodness over evil. With this, Yvain has chosen to align himself with the lion, who, despite these initial circumstances, becomes his greatest and most powerful ally.
The choice that Yvain makes in that moment serves him well, and he gains a companion that never ceases to fail him. Once their alliance has formed, however, the lion displays characteristics that are not only uncommon for a Christ-like figure, but are uncommon for a lion, as well. Once [Yvain] rescued the lion, he still thought it would attack him and he would have to do battle with it; but the lion would never have done that. Listen to how nobly and splendidly the lion acted: it stood up on its hind paws, bowed its head, joined its forepaws and extended them towards Yvain, in an act of total submission. Then it knelt down and its whole face was bathed in tears of humility…[The] lion stayed by his side and never left him. (Chrétien 337) The lion here is submissive; it expresses gratitude and humility, thanking Yvain for choosing him over the dragon. These rather uncommon characteristics assigned to a lion, however, intentionally draw attention to the lion’s emotional and communitive intelligence. As Harris writes, “[The] lion acts more like a dog than like the king of the beasts; but Chrétien always paints after nature: since he has never seen a man with a lion, he describes a man with a dog which has the strength, courage, and nobility of a lion” (Harris 1148). Chrétien uses these qualities intentionally: he creates a relatable, imaginable character out of an animal through making it humble and constantly displaying a heart of service, though Chrétien still makes sure that the animal keeps its most important qualities—strength, courage, and nobility, as Harris stated—even if, in this moment, they are not the most prominent qualities about the lion.
With this description of the lion, Chrétien continues to characterize the lion with qualities that were important Christ-like qualities from a biblical point of view that coincides with his own cultural point of view. Specifically speaking, the lion is showing loyalty to his new master—or to his “lord.” After this initial interaction, the lion never willingly leaves Yvain alone again, just as a knight would live by his oath of fealty to his lord (Schlager 141). The lion’s life, now, is dedicated to serving Yvain, and that devotion cannot—and shall not—be shaken. With the lord-vassal relationship being a well-known and well-understood cultural norm in Chrétien’s time, it is no wonder that a Christ figure would have to take on those qualities as well. These qualities, however, do also line up with the characterization of Jesus Christ in the Bible, as one who came not to be served, but to serve, according to the gospel of Matthew 20:28. On the surface, this appears to put Yvain in a godlike position, threatening to characterize him with a god-complex. This interaction between the lion and Yvain, in one sense, shows that a Jesus-figure is worshipping a knight—that the Jesus-figure has replaced his view of God with Yvain, creating an understandable idol. This, however, is not the case. The lion is actually displaying love, affection, and an offer to Yvain for companionship. According to Dickens, love, affection, and friendship were viewed as the “basis for human return to God (through community)” in the Middle Ages (Dickens iii-v). This physical act of submission depicts an intimate relationship between the lion and the knight—between the Christ and the man—that can only grow to benefit the man in the future: through salvation. The lion, therefore, is actually offering a mode to salvation in this moment to Yvain. This alliance that forms between the unlikely pair, does, in the end, result in Yvain’s life being prolonged, as he is later saved by the lion in a dire situation.
Further into the story, when it came time for Yvain to fight with the demons, the way that the lion comes in to rescue him is when the lion truly takes on godlike characteristic. After the lion is separated from Yvain and the demons, the fight commences, and the lion holds nothing back when the time comes to return the favor—when the time comes for the lion to save Yvain. So my lord Yvain had every reason to fear for his life; but he was left to hold his own until the lion clawed beneath the threshold enough to work itself completely free. If now the fiends are not defeated then they will never be, because the lion will allow them no respite as long as it knows them to be alive. It pounces upon one and throws him to the ground like a log. Now the fiends fear for their lives, and there is not a man there whose heart does not rejoice. The demon who was dashed to the earth by the lion will ever rise again if he is not rescued by the other. His companion ran over to bring him aid and to save himself, so the lion would not charge him once it had killed the demon it had already thrown to the ground. Indeed, he was much more afraid of the lion than of its master. (Chrétien 365) The lion here withholds nothing as he saves Yvain from what looks like a fatal situation. The demons themselves fear the lion and understand its capabilities and true threat to their own existence (Chrétien 364). Yvain here is fighting a battle, however, with the supernatural—the supernatural cannot be easily destroyed with a sword, but they could effortlessly destroy Yvain’s armor (Chrétien 364). This is when the lion truly comes into action: it breaks free from the locked room that it was previously forced into (due to the apparent advantage the lion gave Yvain as a companion), intervenes in the battle between Yvain and the demons—who were “too skilled in swordplay, and their shields could not be dented by any sword, no matter how sharp or well-tempered” (Chrétien 365)—and, in the end, completely saves Yvain’s life. The lion destroys the demons, in such a way that victory for them was not even a possibility in this fight. This is the depiction of a hero and savior that represents the Christian Messiah that the audience was waiting for—that the medieval audience would have been expecting this whole time. The lion was strong, fearless, and unstoppable—and always arriving just in time. In addition to the undeniable power of the lion in these moments, the demons were genuinely afraid of the lion. The lion was displaying supernatural powers that were overwhelmingly more powerful than those of the demons. This was divine intervention, as Julian Harris states: “When it becomes clear that Yvain can not possibly win without outside aid…can the lion be regarded as anything else than a symbol of God?” (1159-1160).
This, too, reflects the common story repeated throughout all gospels when Jesus casts out demons: they immediately know and understand his power without it ever needing to be proved to them, and they fear it as a result. These demons did not even need a demonstration of strength or power from the lion before determining that the use of this lion would make for unfair battle circumstances, between the demons and Yvain. Even though the demons tried to conceal the power that the lion held within, it could not, in the end, be contained: it broke free from the locked room, and that pure power won the battle in the end. Effortlessly. In this moment, the lion is exemplifying the power and strength of the Christian God.
The relationship between animal and man, as explored through Chrétien de Troyes’ The Knight with the Lion offers a unique way for the man whose name proclaims his religious identity to share the gospel message with anyone who will listen to his stories as he tells them. Initially he portrays the lion as weak and helpless, and slowly but surely he builds up to show the total strength and resilience that the lion has inside of him, until the situation arises where his intervention must be interpreted as nothing less than divine intervention itself. With showing the lion initially dangling in the dragon’s mouth, Chrétien shatters his audiences’ expectations of a powerful, warrior-like animal to symbolize Jesus Christ; instead, his depiction shows the humility and heart for service that Christ displayed throughout his life and death. From there, however, Chrétien builds up and eventually reveals the lion’s supernatural power in order to display the power of the Christian God. Through all of this, Chrétien de Troyes challenges his audiences’ expectations and theological views, but then affirms the message of the gospel as he knows it, and he does not fail to express his religious passion.
Badke, David. “Medieval Bestiary.” Medieval Bestiary, bestiary.ca/. Accessed 18 Apr. 2017.
Burns, E. Jane., and Peggy McCracken. From beasts to souls: gender and embodiment in medieval Europe. Notre Dame (Ind.), University of Notre Dame Press, 2013: 68. Print.
Dickens, Andrea J. Unus Spiritus Cum Deo: Six Medieval Cistercian Christologies. University of Virginia, Ann Arbor, 2005: iii-v. Web. Harris, Julian. “The Role of the Lion in Chrétien de Troyes’ Yvain.” Pmla, vol. 64, no. 5, 1949:148, 1159-60. Web.
Nelson. Holy Bible. New King James Version. 1982. Print.
Salisbury, Joyce E. The Beast Within: Animals in the Middle Ages. Routledge, 2010: 86. Print.
Schlager, Neil., et al. “Knights and the Traditions of Chivalry.” The Crusades Reference Library.vol. 1: Almanac, UXL, 2005: 141. Web.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Yvain the Knight of The Lion: A Gender Analysis
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight translated by James J. Wilhelm and Yvain the Knight of Lion by Chrétien de Troyes are both Arthurian stories that focus in on the chivalrous tales and adventures of two very brave knights, Gawain and Yvain. Although the stories are very different in their adventures and in their conflicts, key elements and roles occur within both stories. In many Arthurian romances, chivalry is a main component of what drives the story along and gives reason and logic behind the way the knights and how Arthur’s court is organized. But it is not only a man’s world in Arthurian romances. A key element of these stories are women. A large part of chivalry is to love and take care of the women around you. The whole point of fighting as a knight is to defend the king and the lady that knight loves, or just women in general. In many romances women tend to be the one being rescued or need to be defended because the female roll is normally depicted as weak and helpless, however in the case of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and in Yvain the Knight of the Lion female characters are not always the damsel in distress. Although Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Yvain the Knight of the Lion express femininity in different ways, both texts show the reversal of gender roles by giving female characters more empowering parts such as Morgan the Fay, the Host’s wife, Lunette, and the ladies in the woods who help Yvain.
In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the main conflict arises when Arthur’s court is challenged by the Green Knight who is sent by the powerful, Morgan the Fay. Gawain steps up to the challenge and chops the Green Knight’s head off; little did he know the Green Knight would be able to pick his head up and challenge Gawain to the same fate a year later. Gawain, being a man of his word, agrees to the challenge, and plans to journey out and find the Green Knight’s chapel a year later. Along the way to meet the Green Knight Gawain stays at a kind Host’s castle where he encounters the Host’s wife seducing him and testing his truthfulness.This is the first instance where we see a strong female character in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. While the host is out hunting, the host’s wife is hunting Gawain. Because Gawain is a guest in their home he is resting comfortably in bed when the Host’s wife lets herself into his chambers and attempts to seduce Gawain and tries to get him to sleep with her. The Host’s wife tells Gawain “‘My husband and his hangers-on are hunting far away. The servingmen are sleeping downstairs with the maids. The door is slammed shut, and the bolt has been sprung; now I have in my house the hero whom all the world adores and I’ll employ my time while it endures, with an eye toward gathering tales. My person is your pleasure, your every wish to avail; hospitality makes me your servant, and in nothing shall I fail’”(Wihelm, 442). Here it is clear to see how this female character is seducing Gawain, and not allowing him to leave the bed because she wants to sleep with him. This is a direct example of how gender roles are reversed in this story because this female is taking over a persona that is normally very masculine. Normally a man would be flirting with or seducing a woman, because men are typically considered ‘in control’ or ‘in charge’ of sexual activities, however this is not the case for Gawain.
While the wife is trying to seduce or ‘hunt’ Gawain, the Host himself is out hunting which creates a very interesting parallel and cinematic comparison within the text and between the two scenes. The description of one of the hunting scenes that the text provides is “They let the harts with their high heads pass safely by, as well as the bucks with their broadly branched antlers, since the free-giving lord had forbidden in the off-season any man to molest one of the masculine deer. The hinds were hemmed in with a ‘Hey!’ And a ‘Ho!’ While the does were driven with a din to the glades” (Wilhelm, 440). This scene is significant because it is a symbol of the seduction scene between Gawain and the Host’s wife. The doe being hunted is representative of Gawain and the hunter is representative of the Host’s wife which is a direct example of a reversal of gender roles, and this also empowers the Host’s wife because she is holding the power in the situation and is the one initiating and harassing Gawain for sexual purposes.
Another very powerful female character who emerges in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, who is also really behind the entire story, is Morgan the Fay. Morgan the Fay is a powerful, magical women who actually lived on the Host’s property and is a lover to Merlin. Morgan the Fay put the Host up to being the Green Knight in order to scare the Queen of Camelot, Guinevere. Queen Guinevere symbolizes the perfect, Arthurian lady, she is poised and beautiful and is often the damsel in distress, and is seen in the same light in other Arthurian Legends, such as Lancelot, or The King of the Cart by Chrétien de Troyes. Obviously if Morgan the Fay is attacking or if she dislikes Guinevere, she is attacking the ideals of chivalry and how woman are perceived through them. Guinevere and Morgan the Fay are opposite characters, one is the Queen of Camelot, yet has no real influence and simply surrenders to the societal pressures of being a married woman; while the other is an independent, powerful, magical woman who does not stand for chivalric ideals. Overall Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a text that fully embodies the idea of gender reversals and has many strong-willed, female characters.
In Yvain the Knight of Lion gender roles are also reversed. Throughout Yvain the Knight of Lion, Yvain goes on a quest after hearing about another knight’s tale about traveling to a distant place where he encountered a battle with a red knight and where he ultimately lost the battle. Hearing about this Red Knight, Yvain decides to set out on his own quest to try and defeat him. After arriving to the correct field and going through the same motions as the previous knight, Yvain lures the Red Knight out to a battle. During the battle the Red Knight gets wounded and retreats back to his castle, Yvain chases the Red Knight right into his castle but when he first enters the castle one of the gates closes on the back on Yvain’s horse and kills his horse. Meanwhile another gate closes in front of Yvain, trapping the knight between his dead horse and a gate, within the Red Knight’s castle. While Yvain panics and worries about certain death, a female savior comes to Yvain’s rescue. Lunette, one of the Queen of the castle’s ladies, finds Yvain and tells him that the Red Knight has died due to his fatal wounds from the battle and now the rest of his court are coming to kill Yvain. Amazingly Lunette had a magical ring that she gave Yvain to make him turn invisible and save him from being killed by the Red Knight’s court. This is clearly a reversal of gender roles, in most romances, the women would be in certain peril and a big, strong knight would swoop in and save the day. But the opposite is going on in this scene. This is once again a situation where a strong female lead gives a magical gift to a knight. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight the Host’s wife gives Gawain a magical girdle that later ‘saves’ his life, very similar to the scene between Lunette and Yvain. This is also an example of empowering women by giving them strong leading characters, Lunette saved the day, she kept Yvain from certain death and held all the power in the situation. However Lunette is not the only empowered female character who saves Yvain.
As the tale continues Lunette plays a big role in setting up Yvain and Laudine, the Red Knight’s widow. Lunette convinces her Queen of giving Yvain a chance, and they end up falling in love overnight, as in many romances, and proved their love by getting married. Later on in the tale Yvain leaves to go do his knightly duties and ends up breaking a promise to his wife. Because he is so lost and shamed without her he looses his mind and runs into the woods in a crazed haze. One day a Lady and her maids are wandering through the forest and find Yvain naked and dying in the woods. They recognize that he is from Arthur’s court and quickly realize he is Yvain. They nursed him back to health using magical ointment from Morgan the Fay, this is once again an example of how women are given important, empowering roles. These ladies selflessly save Yvain’s life and without them the story would have ended. Once again gender roles are reversed because the female characters have more dominant and authoritative roles.
Although both of these texts discuss gender roles and have compelling female characters, they do approach femininity and women as a whole differently. Towards the end of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, women are seen as sinful and evil. Gawain goes off on a rant about how evil and manipulative women are and how all great men are brought down by women because he finds out that the Host’s wife was really in on the entire Green Knight scam. On the flip side, in Yvain the Knight of the Lion women are regarded in a much higher light, mainly because they are the key saviors in the story. Lunette and the Ladies in the woods take on a knightly role by saving Yvain which makes them much more ideal rather than a character such as Morgan the Fay. Overall, both texts express femininity in different way but also show the reversal of gender roles by giving female characters more empowering parts such as Morgan the Fay, the Host’s wife, Lunette, and the ladies in the woods who help Yvain.