Le Fresne/Lay le Freine (T Sept 2)

In both Marie de France’s Le Fresne and the middle English Lay le Freine, a network of similar actants performs in a similar, though not identical, way. The objects left with the abandoned girl play a pivotal role. In a less obvious way, so does the tree that she’s left in. How might these non-human actants affect the narrative in a way that is unavailable to their human counterparts? Do these objects have an advantage over a human actant in the narrative structure?

3 thoughts on “Le Fresne/Lay le Freine (T Sept 2)

  1. I do not necessarily think that the non-human objects that are included in both lays act in a way that is unavailable to humans, I think that the objects certainly supplement the storyline and allow for interesting and identifying metaphors about Le Fresne but they do not propel the story in a way that was unavailable to the human counterparts in the tale. Her ring and clothing symbolize her royal stature, but these objects hold nothing but metaphorical purpose and identification. When the child is abandoned underneath the ash tree with all of the noble riches attached to her, the text does not say that the porter retrieves the baby because of the riches or because of the fact that she is underneath that particular tree. The porter approaches the baby because the bundle resembles loot that may have been left by a robber and picks the baby up because she is abandoned and needs help. When Le Fresne is seeked out by Gurun, he wants to find her because he has heard that she is a beautiful and kind maiden, not because of her noble clothing which he knows nothing about. The objects that were left on Le Fresne as a baby are important at the end of the story when the mother finds the silk brocade and sees the ring that she recognizes as her long lost child’s. This steers the end of the story in a different direction, but I would argue that these objects were tools that Le Fresne unintentionally used and they did not act on their own. They are supplemental in this story.

  2. I think the objects play a more literal role in the story rather than anything else. They act as markers, so to speak, milestones, if you will. The tree in which Fresne is left is not a driving force, as opposed to objects from previous stories. But it’s not the tree that attracts the porter, it was the clothes, which I suppose play more of a role than the tree. So yes, the cloth and the ring are more influential in the story that they show Fresne of being of noble birth, ergo revealing to her mother who she is in the end. Personally, I also think it can be symbolic of Fresne’s kind and selfless spirit when she places it on the bed so that it will be prettier for her lover’s wedding night. So there’s about a 50/50 balance of yes they have a role, and no they do not.

  3. The tree is symbolic in Fresne rebirth into a world outside of her family’s. The ash tree is significant, because Fresne is the “fruit” of it’s branches, according the Brenton Leys. The notes in Brenton Leys also highlights how the ash tree in the World Tree in Norse mythology. It could be said that Fresne represents the impossible happening being the “fruit” of a tree that is not know to bare fruit, making her reunification with her family even more of a miracle.

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