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Discuss the role of fairies and/or the supernatural in the medieval lay. You should refer to at least three texts in your answer.

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Introduction

Leanne Waddington Rory McTurk Discuss the role of fairies and/or the supernatural in the medieval lay. You should refer to at least three texts in your answer. Introduction and outline of events in the medieval lays Medieval lays are essentially tales of romance, often of Celtic origin. Similar patterns of events, or certain features are common in many lays, for example the theme of deeply felt love or a complex love situation where two lovers are separated, go through a period of grief and are eventually reunited. This pattern of events can been compared to rites of passage, as will be discussed later. The mixture between reality and the otherworld is a key aspect of the medieval lays. The supernatural is not over-emphasised, instead it works alongside the reality of the lay, making it much more believable to the audience. Fairies and the supernatural play a particularly important role in Sir Orfeo, based on the classical Orpheus myth. Sir Orfeo enters the fairy-kingdom to rescue his wife - Heurodis - who has been snatched by the fairy king. Sir Orfeo is able to charm the fairy king with his harp-playing ability, and the fairy king agrees to let Heurodis go. Other lays containing elements of the supernatural include Lanval - taken from the Lais of Marie De France, and the Franklins Tale - from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. ...read more.

Middle

The three stages in the Franklins Tale are not as obvious because there are two possible elements of separation - one of Dorigen from her husband, and one of Aurelius from Dorigen. The encounters with Aurelius and the supernatural could, however, be interpreted as an obstacle to Dorigen's marriage - an obstacle that they are able to overcome. The fact that the supernatural encounters generally occur during the most important stage shows a heavy reliance on the supernatural for the progression of events in the lays. This is characteristic of medieval lays and, to some extent, the way in which it is used distinguishes the lays from other medieval romance. Sir Orfeo is based entirely around Heurodis being snatched away by the fairy king. Similarly, Aurelius being able to fulfil his promise to Dorigen in the Franklins Tale is totally reliant upon supernatural intervention in the form of the astrologer. Portrayal of fairies, the otherworld and the supernatural in medieval lays It is common in Celtic tradition for mortals to be snatched away by fairies and taken into their kingdom. The image that Sir Orfeo sees when he enters the fairy kingdom is that of all those who have been snatched away, frozen in their last state as they were on Earth. Heurodis is shown to him asleep under a similar tree in the fairy kingdom to that she was snatched from in the mortal world. ...read more.

Conclusion

The immortal also appear more 'humanly' as they can, to some extent, be controlled or subtly manipulated by mortals. Sir Orfeo, for example, is able to charm the fairy king with his harp-playing ability into making him promise to let Heurodis go. This is also true in Lanval, where despite her promise that Lanval would never see her again if he spoke of their love, the fairy mistress remained loyal to him by rescuing him from King Arthur's court. Conclusion It is apparent from the three lays discussed that the structure of the lays relies heavily upon the supernatural, it is essential to the development of events rather than being added for 'decoration'. In each of the lays it is presented in a way that makes it reflect the mortal world in values as well as appearance, particularly in Sir Orfeo. It also acts to highlight the rites of passage motif, as the supernatural encounters occur in the transitional stage. Finally, it acts to emphasise the values and lessons to be learned from the lays, such as the values needed to be a good leader - as with the fairy king and Sir Orfeo; also the importance of being true and forgiving - like Aurelius in the Franklins Tale and the fairy mistress in Lanval. Overall, the supernatural plays an essential structural role, but does not undermine the main themes of the lays - instead it makes them clearer and for the audience to see. ...read more.

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