The Duality of a Monster: The Human-Wolf Dynamic of the Sympathetic Werewolf in Marie de France’s Bisclavret

The Duality of a Monster

Authors

  • Carl B. Sell Lock Haven University

Keywords:

Marie de France, Bisclavret, lycanthropy, werewolf, nobility

Abstract

Throughout her Lays, Marie de France uses animal imagery and metaphor, and her most intriguing use of the motif of the interaction between man and beast comes in her exploration of human-animal transformations. Bisclavret, however, uses a different human-animal transformation, one that would, perhaps, make the lay’s audience question the humanity of the lycanthropic protagonist. Why would Marie de France, in the case of Bisclavret, use a werewolf—normally a monstrous, villainous figure—as the hero of her tale? This essay asserts that Marie uses Bisclavret’s lycanthropy to establish a protagonist that addresses the link between the human and the animal forms of his existence, a character that becomes sympathetic because of that link and the nobility that Bisclavret exhibits in both his human and animal forms. Bisclavret is a story where the human and the animal interact together to show the virtue of an afflicted man; the lycanthropic character is not a mindless monster, but a sympathetic being in either human or animal form. Marie de France breaks the human-animal binary and shows that a man who is also an animal can be a sympathetic and friendly character, changing the discourse of what we define as a bestial monster.

References

Benkov, Edith Joyce. “The Naked Beast: Clothing and Humanity in Bisclavret.” Chimères, vol. 19, no. 2, 1988, pp. 27-43.

Byock, Jesse L., translator. The Saga of the Volsungs, Penguin Books, 1999.

Campbell, Emma. “Political Animals: Human/Animal Life in Bisclavret and Yonec.” Exemplaria: A Journal of Theory in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, vol. 25, no. 2, 2013, pp. 95-109.

de France, Marie. “Bisclavret.” The Lays of Marie de France. Trans. Edward J. Gallagher. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2010, pp. 29-33.

Jorgensen, Jean. “The Lycanthropy Metaphor in Marie de France’s Bisclavret.” Selecta: Journal of the Pacific Northwest Council on Foreign Languages. vol. 15, 1994, pp. 24-30.

McCracken, Peggy. “Translation and Animals in Marie de France’s Lais.” Australian Journal of French Studies, vol. 46, no. 3, 2009, pp. 206-218.

Wood, Lucas. “The Werewolf as Mobius Strip, or Becoming Bisclavret.” Romantic Review, vol. 102, no.1-2, 2011, pp. 3-25.

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Published

2020-11-22

How to Cite

Sell, C. B. (2020). The Duality of a Monster: The Human-Wolf Dynamic of the Sympathetic Werewolf in Marie de France’s Bisclavret : The Duality of a Monster. International Review of Literary Studies, 2(1), 1-10. Retrieved from https://irlsjournal.com/ojs/index.php/irls/article/view/16