Is ‘True Love’ Imaginary?: An Inspiring Delusion in “Guigemar” and “Yonec”
Among all other feelings, love proves to be one of the most complex emotions humans experience. Usually, people can pinpoint why they feel a certain way. For example, working people are happy when they get paid, but are often sad when they have to pay taxes. Love, however, is harder to comprehend. Merriman Webster dictionary defines love as “a strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties” (“Love”, Merriman-Webster Dictionary). Unfortunately, this definition does not begin to grasp the true meaning of love because love travels beyond family relationships. However, the definition of love provides one key aspect: Affection. ‘True love’ occurs when this “strong affection” creates a surreal, emotional link between two people. This connection happens randomly and almost instantaneously. Is this idea of “true love” even possible? Some people believe that the phenomenon is far too complex for today’s society and believe the idea is a product of imagination. Within The Lais of Marie de France, the author provides the reader with examples of scenarios where ‘true love’ is found. Ultimately, the tales show how the idea of ‘true love’ is the result of one’s imagination. The two “lais” that best describe ‘true love’ as a figment of imagination are “Guigemar” and “Yonec”. Both stories have characters that create the idea of ‘true love’ in their mind because they are in need of love, but neither case is relatable to real life.
Marie de France describes Guigemar as a handsome, brave knight who could have anylady he pleased. Unfortunately, for the many women that loved and adored Guigemar, he was notinterested in love. The story progresses, stating that when he arrived home after serving a lord ina distant land, Guigemar coordinated a hunting trip. During the hunt, Guigemar spotted amagnificent stag. The knight fired an arrow perfectly at the deer. Guigemar landed the kill shoton the animal, but the arrow deflected and pierced the knight in the thigh. The dying stag cursedGuigemar, saying “may you never get medicine for your wound! / Neither herb nor root, / neitherphysician nor potion, / will cure you / of that wound in your thigh, / until a woman heals you, /one who will suffer out of love for you” (“Guigemar”, 110-115). The brave knight that once hadno purpose for love now has to find his ‘true love’ or suffer from the wound until his death.
Although Guigemar is injured, the knight continues to move until he finds an abandonship in a cove. When Guigemar investigates the boat, he finds a bed and falls asleep. The knightwakes up several moments later to the ship steering itself. Guigemar, however, does not react tothis phenomenon and goes back to sleep. To summarize the rest of the tale, the boat travels to aland where Guigemar finds ‘true love’ in the king’s wife. Unfortunately, the two are notsupposed to love each other, but since the couple is willing to risk anything and suffer for oneanother, Guigemar is healed and ‘true love’ conquers the barriers between their love. Is this ‘truelove’ real? The story does not follow a realistic plot with the magnificent stag that can talk or theself-steering ship that leads the main character right to his ‘true love’. Possibly, the scenarios thatwere presented were created from the imagination of Guigemar after the trauma of getting shotwith an arrow in the thigh. Although “Guigemar” makes a tremendous story about maturity andthe power of love, Marie de France does not allow the reader to create a realistic scenario of ‘truelove’.
“Yonec” also describes a situation of ‘true love’ that is “too good to be true”. An old,wealthy king married a beautiful young lady but was jealous of anyone who would lay eyes onher. The king was afraid to lose her. The king decided to lock his wife in a tower and have hiselderly sister keep watch of her. The solitude in the tower made the young lady depressed untothe point of her losing her good looks and the young lady praying for death to come quickly. Oneday she cursed the old man for locking her up, her parents for giving her away to some old guy,and the fates that she will never have a knight come rescue her, like a fairytale. “When she’dfinished her lament, / she saw through a narrow window, / the shadow of a great bird … When ithad been there awhile, / and she’d stared hard at it, / it became a handsome and noble knight”(“Yonec”, 105-115). At that moment, a hawk flew into her room from the window andtransformed into a handsome knight. The knight explains how he could not come to the younglady until she wished for him. From the reader’s perspective, the young lady did not find ‘truelove’. Rather, true love, in the form of a hawk, found the young lady. This ‘true love’ story,although charming, cannot be related to real life because the idea of transformation (from bird tohuman) is implausible. Additionally, several years of solitude can drive a person insane and forcetheir imagination to run wild. It is possible that the knight was just an image of the young lady’simagination in order to make herself happy.
“Guigemar” and “Yonec” are two ‘true love’ stories found in The Lais of Marie deFrance. These two tales serve as a testament to the idea of ‘true love’ because ‘true love’ ispresented in an unrealistic setting. Guigemar had several extraordinary events, such as talking tothe stag and sailing on a self-steering ship, that led the knight to his ‘true love’. The young ladywished for her ‘true love’ and a knight flew through the window transformed as a hawk. The‘true love’ in both of these tales came at a time when both the main characters were in a need for love, whether it was to heal a wound or to instill happiness. Although Marie de France does notpresent the idea of finding ‘true love’ as a plausible event in real life, that was not her purpose.The author wanted to show that love is a powerful tool that should not be taken for granted. Lovecan heal and bring happiness, but it can also create despair and death if this emotion is abused.Although the idea of ‘true love’ can only be created in one’s imagination, the power of love livesthroughout the world today.
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