"

 

 

C. F. F

Center of Folktales and Folklore

 

back to main page

Back to Medieval Stories

 

Melion

Summary of the text

Melion, a knight in Arthurs court, vows never to love a lady who has loved or spoken of another man. Angered, the ladies of the court ostracise Melion, whose unhappiness makes him lose interest in chivalric pursuits. To cheer him, Arthur gives him a valuable fiefdom, where he hunts and recovers his good spirits.

While pursuing a stag, Melion meets a lady, riding alone, who tells him she is the daughter of the King of Ireland and that she has come to meet him, for she has never been loved by a man, nor will she love any but him. The knight is delighted and marries her at once. They live together happily for three years and have two children.

One day, they go hunting, taking a squire. Melion draws his wifes attention to a large stag, but she immediately swoons and, weeping, declares that she will die if she does not eat meat from the stag. Distressed, Melion promises that he will obtain the venison by transforming himself into a wolf, using a ring with two magic stones. He undresses, urges his wife to keep the ring safe so that he can turn back into human form, and tells her to touch his head with one of the stones.

As soon as she does so, he turns into a wolf, retaining his human mind, and follows the stag.

His wife at once leaves for the harbour and Ireland, taking with her the squire. Melion returns with the meat, but cannot find his wife. Realising where she has gone, he goes to the harbour and stows away on a ship going to Ireland. There he begins a war of attrition, killing livestock. The peasants go to the king, who dismisses their complaints. Melion persuades ten wolves to join him: for a year they kill livestock and peasants, and no one can stop them. One day, a peasant sees the wolves lying up and tells the king, who kills all the wolves except Melion, who mourns his lost companions.

Just as he has given up hope, he sees a ship approaching Dublin. He recognises the shields hung over the side: it is Arthurs ship. The ship docks and Arthur sets up camp. Melion enters Arthurs tent and lies at his feet. Everyone marvels at the wolfs docility. Melion refuses to be parted from the king.

The next day, Arthur and his retinue, including the wolf, go to the Irish kings court. Melion sees the squire who left with his wife and attacks him. Melion is threatened by the Irish kings men, but Arthur protects him, insisting that the wolf must have a reason for his attack. The squire is forced to confess and Arthur demands that the King of Ireland obtain the magic ring from his daughter. She supplies it and Melion is taken to a private chamber, where he changes into human form. His wife is brought before Arthur for judgement, and Melion wishes to transform her with the ring, but Arthur dissuades him. Melion, expressing his low opinion of women, returns with Arthur to Britain, leaving his wife behind.

 

From: Melion and Biclarel: Two old French werewolf lays, Edited and translated by Amanda Hopkins, Liverpool Online Series, Critical Editions of French Texts, 10, Liverpool Online Series

http://www.liv.ac.uk/media/livacuk/cultures-languages-and-area-studies/liverpoolonline/Werwolf.pdf

 

Marie de Frances Bisclavret and the lesser-known lay of Melion are two medieval stories among the dozen or so popular during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries that address the metamorphosis of man to wolf. In both poems a young knight who is highly regarded by his king and peers marries a beautiful lady of quality. The lady, after swearing her undying love for him, betrays him, purposefully leaving her husband in the state of a werewolf. The hero is condemned to live the life of a beast for quite some time, but is then able to seek his recovery following a fortuitous encounter with the king, who marvels at the animals human-like qualities. In the kings presence the wolf confronts those who have betrayed him and the intrigue unravels. The guilty confess and the wolf is finally returned to human form.

The creator of Melion is unknown, but it is thought that he was a professional jongleur of Picard origin who possessed a wide-ranging knowledge of the stories circulating during his time. According to P. M. OHara Tobin, the most recent editor of the Melion text, included in Les Lais anonymes des XIIe et XIIe siècle,1 this storyteller was probably familiar with the works of Wace, Chrétien de Troyes, the Tractatus de Amore by André le Chapelain, as well as the Breton lays of Marie de France. The lay of Melion and the lay of Bisclavret are fairly contemporary. In her critical edition Tobin places its composition between 1170 and 1267, more narrowly, between the years 1190 and 1204 (292).2 Most editors of the works of Marie de France agree that her Lais were set down during the last one-third of the twelfth century, with the date of 1170 often being mentioned.3

__________________

[1] The Tobin text is edited from MS C Paris, Bibliothèque de lArsenal

[2] Burgess analytical bibliography, The Old French Narrative Lay, published in 1995, cites 1268 (p. 93).

[3] Ewert states that it was sometime before 1187 (p.x), Rychner limits it to between 1160 and 1170, Warnke says 1170 ( p.10).

 

From: Robyn A. Holman, Metamorphosis and Return in the Lays of Bisclavret and Melion, The South Carolina Modern Language Review Volume 4, Number 1.

http://images.acswebnetworks.com/2017/78/META.pdf

 

The English translations of Melion on the web are copyrighted.

 

For prose translation see:

Helen Nicholson, Melion, translated from Les Lais anonymes des XIIe et XIIIe siècles, ed. Prudence M. O'Hara Tobin (Geneva, 1976), 1999.

http://freespace.virgin.net/nigel.nicholson/Melion.htm

 

For lyric translation see:

Melion and Biclarel: Two old French werewolf lays, Edited and translated by Amanda Hopkins, Liverpool Online Series, Critical Editions of French Texts, 10, Liverpool Online Series

http://www.liv.ac.uk/media/livacuk/cultures-languages-and-area-studies/liverpoolonline/Werwolf.pdf

 

For essay about Melion see:

Robyn A. Holman, Metamorphosis and Return in the Lays of Bisclavret and Melion, The South Carolina Modern Language Review Volume 4, Number 1.

http://images.acswebnetworks.com/2017/78/META.pdf