This paper will examine Sir Orfeo’s development throughout the 14th-century work as exemplified by the description of his appearance, most notably his beard. Beards were a visible indication of a man’s inherent masculinity and therefore of kingship, in terms of the king as the epitome of masculine power. The partial removal from the role of king, the ‘othering’ of Orfeo, raises questions about the relevance of his appearance and his developing role within the text as reflected in his physical presence. This is especially important within the context of the mirroring figure of the otherworld fairy king and the contrasting descriptions given of these two monarchs within the text.
Despite the dominance of male authors in the Middle Ages, Marie de France’s unusual learning, which is manifest in her knowledge of Latin, French and English along with her familiarity with the fable, romance and Celtic traditions in her works, positions her as a capable author with a multi-cultural background. With the help of her learning, she intentionally blurs the boundaries between the folkloric culture and the learned one, male author and female layperson so that in her works she envisions a fictional world that comments on the social and political condition of the feudal world. In this respect, her lai of Lanval features the character of Lanval who is othered by the rigid and often relentless codes of the medieval feudal society and is forced to inhabit in the otherworld of the fairies. Consequently, this becomes a blunt criticism on the arbitrariness of this society and its readiness to outcast those who have trouble in conforming. In undertaking such a criticism, Marie de France employs Celtic heroes, Celtic motifs and traditions as an alternative ‘other’ to the dominant Christian tradition of narratives in order to strengthen her point. Hence, this paper analyses how, in the lai of Lanval, Marie de France employs the Celtic tradition of journeying to the otherworld and presents a number of Celtic motifs so as to envision a better world for its character, which becomes a criticism of the feudal society.
Perhaps the first thing that springs to mind when contemplating otherness in the medieval world is the otherworld of Celtic myth and folklore. This paper would seek to describe the exact nature and function of that realm’s otherness in its various depictions, from the extant imramma to the Lebor Gabála Érenn. Applying Lacan’s paradigm of the Other as a mirror, this paper would locate the otherworld’s otherness in its familiarity, rather than its novelty, and more specifically, it would argue for an essentially temporal otherness. It is the otherworld’s role as a nostalgic vehicle for making the alienated pagan past present which creates its contrast with the primary world. This paper would thus contribute to clarifying the role of the otherworld as medium of nostalgia in Celtic identity construction.