The Appeal of Sir Orfeo and Lanval

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Lanval and Sir Orfeo: A Comparison

Lanval and Sir Orfeo are narratives that share several themes. Written by Marie de France, Lanval tells the story of a knight who is forced to prove his innocence before his king. Lanval was accused of having shamed Queen Guinevere. Subsequently, the King sought to punish the knight for having maligned the queen. At the end of the narrative, Lanval is able to prove his claim with the help of his beautiful and mysterious mistress. Alternatively, Sir Orfeo is an adventure that follows a King through the forest, in his quest to rescue his wife from the grip of a fairy king. The poem is a re-enactment of the misfortunes that befell Orpheus and the subsequent attempts to rescue his wife. The two narratives share several literary elements. Some of shared components in the story include the element of tenacity and integrity, the reinforcement of the supernatural and the theme of love.

Tenacity and Integrity

Tenacity and integrity form an intrinsic part of both Lanval and Sir Orfeo. The protagonists in the two narratives are shown to be tenacious, honest and courageous. When Lanval is falsely accused by Queen Guinevere of having humiliated her, the knight commits to defend himself and prove his innocence in the presence of the Knight. Such a steady resolve provides a major factor behind the success of his appeal. Essentially, "Against his lord's honor he's made no offense; He refutes, word for word, the demand for love the Queen says she heard. But as for what he said afterwards, He admits the truth of those word" (de France 11). Lanval’s refusal to sin against the king, and the subsequent acknowledgement of truth that was shared by Queen Guinevere is a reflection of the knight’s integrity.

Equally, the narrative Sir Orfeo is predicated upon the elements of tenacity and integrity. Thew King’s tenacity is witnessed when he leaves the comfort of his palace in pursuit of captured wife. Thus, he declares that “the faireste lady that ever evere was bore, never eft I nil no woman see; in the wilderness now will ich tee, and live there for evermore” (“Sir Orfeo” 7). The statement is a reflection of the King’s willingness to abandon wealth and prestige in search of his wife through the forest. Likewise, his integrity is manifested when he chooses an appropriate manner to recuse his wife from her assumed obligations under the fairy king. Lanval and Sir Orfeo reflect the significance of integrity and tenacity among the protagonists.

Reinforcement of the Supernatural

Supernatural events, people and circumstances can be found in both Lanval and Sir Orfeo. The application of the supernatural in both cases adds to the appeal of the events in the two stories. In Lanval, the supernatural is observed through the allusion to the Queen of Babylon. Only Lanval is aware of the existence of the mysterious figure and is expected by the lady to shield such information from the grasps of the King and other individuals. The lady claims to have come from a mysterious land in pursuit of Lanval. She dictates “I left my lands to come to where you are; To find you I have come so far! Be valiant and courtly in everything, and no emperor, count or king ever had joy or blessings above you” (de Marie 4). The statement reflects the absurdity in the beautiful lady’s origins.

The reinforcement of the supernatural is also observed in the narrative Sir Orfeo. Despite the protective measures that had been instituted by Sir Orfeo to protect his wife against the fairy king, the latter uses supernatural powers to whisk the wife away. The strength of the guards fails in the face of the strength of supernatural powers. Thus, "er the queene sholde from hem goon. And yit amiddes hem full right. The queene was away ytwight, with fairye forth ynome" (“Sir Orfeo” 5). The phrase gives insight on the overbearing influence of the supernatural in the narrative. It reflects the imperious odds that the protagonist was supposed to overcome to achieve final glory.

The Theme of Passionate Love

Love is a major theme in both texts. The romance between the protagonists and their spouses is the major cause of strife in the narratives. In Lanval, the knight’s love for the beautiful mysterious woman inspires strife between him and the queen. In his attempt to justify his sexuality, he invokes the love shared with the mysterious lady to vilify the queen’s approach. Thus, Lanval dictates that “I do love – I alone love, a lady who’d win the prize, over all women I’ve known for” (de Marie 9). Alternatively, the theme of passionate love is witnessed in Sir Orfeo when he decides to set off in hunt for the Queen who had been kidnapped by the fairy king.


Lanval and “Sir Orfeo” share several components. Some of the shared content in the narratives include the theme of love, the reinforcement of supernatural powers, and tenacity and integrity. The similarities serve the purpose of promoting the central ideas behind the narratives. For instance, the theme of passionate love in the narratives provides the major inspiration behind the decisions and actions that are taken by the protagonists in the story.

Works Cited

De Marie, “Lanval”, 2005.

“Sir Orfeo”.

November 24, 2023



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