What is the significance of the weasel scene in Marie de France’s Eliduc? Eliduc’s complicated love life comes to a head when his wife finds out about his affair with another woman. Surprisingly, her reaction is one of acceptance rather than anger. In fact, she goes so far as to bring his love back to life in an imitation of how the weasel brought his companion to life with the red flower.
It is significant that the weasels exemplify love’s power in this scene—its power to heal or destroy. In resituating its mate, the weasel also embodies the importance of loyalty or fidelity in the relationships between Eliduc and the two women. It is interesting that weasels would be used as the medium to express the ways in which love can overcome potential pettiness or jealousy and even death itself. The weasels’ love is not inferior; the love between the two weasels is analogous to the love between the two humans.
The wife’s reaction (i.e. to imitate their actions rather than dismiss them) shows how love transcends the divide between human and nonhuman. The exhibition of loving traits, even in the bodies of animals, does not alter the meaning of love itself but reaffirms the power of love to transcend body, space, and time. There are certainly different forms of love (and a ‘divine’ love may indeed be more important than an earthly one), but the fact remains: the weasels show how, in at least one respect, animal behavior mirrors its human counterparts.
The weasels may be important in and of themselves but, in renewing life through an act of love, they almost rise above the animal body itself—that kind of power is no respecter of artificial bodily boundaries. In portraying the scene as charming rather than ridiculous, the story illustrates the agency of love and the implied agency of the nonhuman actants as well.