Marie of France: Bisclavaret

Here is the poem (the lays) of Marie de France concerning the myth Arthurian. Here is the storytelling version in modern French. The fourth lay is: Bisclavaret.



Since I am busy translating Lais, I do not want to forget that of Bisclavaret, so called by Bretons, and whom the Normans call Garwal. It is very certain, and often happened in ancient times, that men were transformed into werewolves. It is a wild beast, which inhabits the forests; its rage is so great that in its ferocity, this beast devours humans and causes the greatest ravages: But let's leave that, and please listen to the Bisclavaret, which I want to tell you about.

Among the lords of the Brittany, he was one who deserved the greatest praise; a brave knight, he lived all the more nobly because he was the prince's favourite, so he was dear to all his neighbours. He had married a young lady of good family, whom he loved tenderly, and by whom he was tenderly loved. Nevertheless, one thing affected the lady. Every week her husband was absent for three whole days, and neither she nor anyone knew where he was going or what had become of him during that time.

Our knight returned home one day very gay and very happy; after the first caresses, his lady speaking, speaks to him in these terms: Sire, my beautiful sweet friend, if I dared, I would venture to ask you a question. But I fear to anger you, and I fear nothing in the world more than your wrath. The husband presses his wife in his arms and kisses her. Dear lady, ask me whatever you want, I have no secrets from my wife, and if I know the thing you want to learn, I will be happy to teach you. Well, sire, here I am reassured, but you cannot imagine how worried I feel on the days that you leave me. In the morning I get up, in the evening I go to bed with the fear of losing you, and if you do not calm my just alarms, all I have to do is die. Please let me know where you are going, what you are doing and what you are becoming.

Dear friend, by the mercy of God, I fear that bad luck will happen to me if I tell you my secret; perhaps that would prevent me from loving you, and might even expose me to losing you. The lady was greatly astonished at this speech, which was nothing less than pleasant. She did not lose heart, she flattered and caressed the knight so tenderly, that the latter fully disclosed his secret to her. Know then that during my absence I become a werewolf; I enter the great forest, and go to hide in the thickest of the woods, and there, I live on prey and roots. - But, good friend, please tell me if you take off your clothes, or if you keep them? - Madam, I'm going naked. - Please teach me where you leave your clothes. - That is impossible for me, because not-only if I were to lose them, but also to be seen, when I leave them, I would remain werewolf all the life, and I could not resume my ordinary form until there. instant when they would be returned to me; from this you should not be surprised at my silence in this regard.

Sire, you know that I love you beyond all expression, therefore you have nothing to fear from me and must not hide anything from me. Confidence is born of friendship, and you would make me believe that I have neither in my husband; I ask you, have I done anything to stop deserving them? tell me, please. Finally, the lady, redoubling her caresses and obstinacy, obtained the confession she so desired. - In the forest, near a crossroads, and on the edge of the cbemin is an old chapel, which often becomes very necessary to me. There, under a bush, is a large hollow stone where I hide my clothes until I have to take them back to come home. The woman was so frightened by the revelation of her husband, that she therefore thought of the means to leave him, and did not want to sleep with him any more.

In the neighborhood was a knight who had long paid court to him; she never granted him anything, not even a promise. By a message the lady urged him to come back to her. Rejoice, beautiful friend, she said to him when she saw him, the evils you suffered will cease; I offer you today everything you asked of me, I give you my heart, my love, and make me your friend. The knight, delighted to hear such pleasant news, thanks the lady. They promise by oath to love each other always. As soon as intimacy was established, the lady informed her lover of all that her husband was doing; she bade him go and take his clothes from the place where they were left. Thus Bisclavaret was betrayed by his wife, who made him very unhappy, since the time when he would reappear was entirely unknown. His friends and relatives, worried about not seeing him any more, often came to his house to inquire about his news. Several even left to look for him; the uselessness of their efforts prompted them not to do any more. The lady soon married the knight, by whom she had been loved for a long time.

A year had passed well since the king had not gone hunting. The prince wanted to take this exercise and went for this purpose in the wood inhabited by Bisclavaret that the dogs met from the moment they were decoupled. He was pursued all day long, had received several wounds by hunters who were about to take him, when seeing the king coming, he went to meet him to ask for mercy. The Bisclavaret seizes the stirrup of the monarch, kisses his foot and his leg. At first the king was afraid, but as soon as he recovered from his fear, he called his companions to him. Come, lords, come and consider this marvel; watch how this animal humbles itself; he has the intelligence of man, since he cries out for mercy. Restrain the dogs and make sure no one injures them. Come on, get ready, let's go back to the castle, because I don't want to hunt any more, and am too satisfied with my discovery.

The prince sets out with the Bisclavaret who follows in his footsteps and who does not want to abandon him. The king, joyful at his capture, whom he regards as a surprising thing, takes him to the castle. Having taken the Bisclavaret in affection, the monarch orders the people of his court, under penalty of being deprived of his good graces, not only not to beat or to touch his wolf, but also to take the greatest care of it. . During the day, the Bisclavaret remained near the knights, and spent the nights in the king's chamber. Everyone loved him because he hurt no one, "and because everywhere he followed the king, no one had ever had to complain about it, but on the contrary to praise it.

Now listen to what happened later to a plenary court held by the king, and to which to make it more beautiful, he had invited all his barons and his vassals. The knight, husband of the wife of Bisclavaret, went there with his lady, who did not know how to meet her first husband. As soon as the Bisclavaret sees the knight entering the palace, he runs to meet him, rushes forward, seizes him, bites him and makes him a large wound. The traitor would doubtless have lost his life if the king had not recalled Bisclavaret and threatened him with a stick. Two more times he wanted to throw himself on his enemy; everyone was astonished at the anger of this animal which, until then, had been extremely gentle. Throughout the palace there was no other rumor that the Bisclavaret had doubtless not made it without reason and doubtless also that he had to avenge a misdeed. During the feast, he was always the same. When it was completed, the barons took leave to return home.

The knight whom Bisclavaret had assailed with so much reason was one of the first to go away. It arrived shortly after that the king wanted to go hunting in the forest where the Bisclavaret had been found. He followed the prince who stayed in the country where his unfaithful wife lived; informed of the passage of the monarch, the lady prepares richly and asks audience to make him a present. The prince grants it, and as she enters the room, the bisclavaret sees her, without anyone being able to stop him, he runs on her, jumps in her face, and to satisfy his vengeance, he tears off her nose. . The courtiers threaten him and he was about to be torn to pieces, when a philosopher speaking, said to the king: Sire, deign to listen to me: this animal accompanies you constantly, there is not one of us who does not know it perfectly. , and which several times has not been placed near him; he never hurt anyone except this lady who was introduced to you.

By faith that I owe you, he absolutely must have to complain about both this woman and her husband. She had first married this knight whose virtues and courage you esteemed so much, and of whom we have not heard from for a long time. We don't know what happened to him. Lock up this lady, sire, order that she be put in the embarrassment; by this means you will make her tell why this beast hates her. Because you know that we have seen many extraordinary adventures which have taken place in Brittany. The king followed the advice which had just been given to him, he had the knight and his wife arrested, who were taken to prison. Soon the lady, frightened by the measures being taken, confessed how she had betrayed her first husband, indicating the place where he hid his clothes. She did not know what had become of him since that time, since he had not returned home. In addition, the lady thought and believed that Bisclavaret could be her. first husband. The king immediately ordered the clothes to be brought, whether it pleased him or not. As soon as they arrived, they were spread out in front of the Bisclavaret, which at first seemed not to pay much attention, because there were too many people in front of it.

The philosopher sent for the king to give him new advice. Sire, let me tell you that your wolf does not want to put on his clothes in public, since he has to become a man again. He fears and is afraid to be seen in his metamorphosis. Have him taken to your apartments with his remains, we will let him rest at his ease, then we will see if he becomes a man. The king himself led the Bisclavaret, and returned, closing all the doors on him. After some time of waiting, the prince, followed by two barons, entered the room, where he saw the knight sleeping in his bed. The king immediately ran to kiss him, then hugged him. As soon as they had talked, he gave her back her land and gave her magnificent gifts. The unfaithful lady was driven out of the country as well as her husband, for such a black treason. They consequently had several children who were very easy to recognize. All the girls came into the world without a nose. This is the most exact truth, which is why they were nicknamed “Enasées”.

Do not doubt it, the adventure which you have just heard is very true. The Bretons, who will always remember it, made it the Lai of Bisclavaret.