When reading Marie de France’s Milun, I realized that it shared many characteristics with other lais that we have read, but most notably Le Fresne. Not only are the plots similar, but also the concept of unwanted children who are sent off to be raised by others, as well as leaving them with objects that ultimately become a major part of their identity.
In Le Fresne, Fresne is born with a twin sister, and the mother, believing that having twins will ruin her reputation and she will be thought of as an adulterer, sends Fresne to a monastery to be raised by a nun, and keeps one of the children. This is very similar to Milun, as he gets his lover pregnant, but because they are not married, she decides to send the baby to her sister to be raised because having a child out of wedlock would ultimately ruin her reputation. So, in both stories, children are not only sent off, but their mother’s reputations become more important than keeping their children, probably reflecting just how important one’s reputation was in a given medieval society. Also, in Le Fresne, Fresne is given a number of fine garments by her mother when she is given away. The garments become a major asset of her identity, and ultimately they define her when her mother sees them towards the end of the story and realizes that this is her daughter. In Milun, the child is given a ring, and once this is seen by his father, he goes from wanting to “put him to shame,” for having a reputation that is as strong as his, to being so happy that he kisses him. In both cases, these objects are not only crucial to the plot, but define their owner’s identities. There are also key differences between Milun and Degare. Degare is too born illegitimately, and is given a broken sword that he keeps throughout his lifetime. In the end, like in Milun, he is fighting his father, who notices the sword, and the two are happily united.