King's Cross

Old French Tales from Brittany

Marie de France: The Story of Guigemar

12th century, Old French: British Library, Bibliothèque Nationale Paris.

The lady hesitated, for although the shirt looked familiar to her she could not find the courage to untie the knot in it, although she was the only one able to do so.

When Guigemar’s name was mentioned, the lady almost fainted. Guigemar himself hesitated, feeling that he knew her, sensing that it was the lady who had healed him when he had journeyed to her castle in a boat with candles at its prow, but it seemed like another life and recognition did not come easily to him. He kissed her politely and asked her to sit by his side. Meriaduc looked on uneasily. Feigning light-heartedness, he called out: 'Lord, why don’t you ask this maiden to try to untie your shirt?'

'I think that this is a good idea,' replied Guigemar, and he sent a chamberlain to bring the item of clothing. When he arrived with the garment, the lady hesitated, for although the shirt looked familiar to her she could not find the courage to untie the knot in it, although she was the only one able to do so. Meriaduc saw this and despite the pain in his heart, her urged her: 'Lady, you must attempt to untie this knot at once!' She complied, and it came undone easily to her touch.

Guigemar was amazed, but he still did not properly recognise the lady and his doubts remained.

Story fragment retold from: Burgess, Glyn S., and Busby, Keith, 1986. The Lais of Marie de France. Translated from Old French with an introduction. Penguin Books Limited. Guigemar, pp 43–55.

broomstick

The Breton lai of Guigemar, abridged and retold.

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