Marie de France, "Les Deus Amanz"

    Marie’s emphasis on the Norman location and the naming of the mountain suggests this may be an "onomastic" or name-story tale invented by the local populace to account for a natural geographical feature. The "potion" is a common enough feature of fairy tales and romances, but the hero’s failure to use it seems bizarre. A clue to the way Marie uses this narrative in her on-going discourse about love may be found in her comment that "it will be of little avail to him, because he knew no moderation" (84). The Aristotelian definition of the good as the mean between extremes here merges with the Christian fear of emotional excess, perhaps. Can one love too much, or was his immoderate behavior a sign of something else?

Study Questions

1) The "king’s test" motif is a familiar one from folk tales, and we can see another instance of it in "Degare," a Middle English lai. In this case, the test seems to be determined by the onomastic motive of the tellers, but it also suggests a kind of simple symbol of love’s strength enacted in the test. What would it mean, and what would that make the mountain and the potion?

2) The potion’s influence on the mountainside (after the maiden pours it out) also suggests that it’s connected with fertility. How might this angle alter your reading of this very peculiar tale?