Adequacy front page
Stories Diaries Polls Users

Home About Topics Rejects Abortions
This is an archive site only. It is no longer maintained. You can not post comments. You can not make an account. Your email will not be read. Please read this page if you have questions.
Medieval Romance...
...too much S&M. 16%
...not enough S&M. 33%
What? S&M? Where? What page is that on? 50%

Votes: 12

 One of my nutty English papers.

 Author:  Topic:  Posted:
Oct 17, 2001
Some of you might find some good ammunition in this. If you see any major errors (in the next ten minutes... I'm in a rush) let me know.

Erec and Beowulf: men with and without women.

Women are at the heart of the difference between the characters Beowulf and Erec. Women become important in a medieval romance like Chretien De Troyes' Erec and Enide primarily because they are necessary if the author is to put love alongside battle as foremost elements of the plot, but the influence of women in the genre expands to fill the work, resulting in a far richer structure than the relatively straightforward Beowulf. The task of putting women in the foreground of stories that must simultaneously tell tales of mighty warriors resolving their conflicts by fighting is the main source of dramatic tension in this kind of romance, and it is by exploring this tension that romance moves into similar tensions such as between fighting and religious development, and finally between inner conflict and outer conquest.


More diaries by elenchos
So shaken as we are, so wan with care,
Oh! I'm in such inner conflict and turmoil! Oh!
Stories I'd like to see:
To the management:
K5 and Adequacy at War: the escalation continues.
I don't know enough history to write it, but...
Is this a troll?
Has anyone heard of a book called...
Draft for a WTC joke.
I feel terrible.
You know...
Terrorist or freshman?
Why I write nothing but non-fiction.
'My dog barks..'
As I'm sure you can imagine...
Giftmas break calendar.
Win fabulous /. Moderator Points in this exciting contest!
You know...
Meta crap...
The Artist...
Robert Frost: a damn geek.
Don't waste your time reading this.
Who knew?
Paging Dr. Science, paging Dr. Science...
Damn them.

While there are other significant similarities between the characters Beowulf and Erec, the complexities in the Erec character that result from his role as a lover and the integration of women into his life, contrasted with Beowulf's near-symmetrical lack of either love or women as significant issues, can give us a model that can be generalized to later romance. In any given scenario, we can predict one logical course for a character limited to the male world, like Beowulf, and another course for someone like Erec, who must account for a number of different and conflicting needs stemming from the women in his life and what mutual expectations he has with them.

A standard course followed in all of these tales of adventure is the road trip, and the importance of a person or thing is demonstrated by whether or not the hero takes it along on a trip, and how well he can function without it. For example, both heroes bring weapons with them, but for Erec, his arms are irreplaceably necessary in all critical situations, whereas Beowulf can do without them if he must. Ultimately, Beowulf's own prowess is more important than what hardware he has. Similarly, Erec's adventure relies on the presence of his female companions, allies and even superiors at every critical stage. Erec's adventure begins at the behest of a woman, Queen Guinevere, whom he accompanies on a hunt because, he tells her "for no other reason than to keep you company" (Chretien, 38). It would be nonsensical for Beowulf to be interacting with a woman out in the forest, wilderness, sea or other zone of adventure. The only time Beowulf speaks to women is back in the hall or other home base, before or after the adventure begins, such as when Hrothgar's queen Wealthow hovers in the background in chapter 18, passing out door prizes and offering words of encouragement, but doing nothing to advance the plot aside from filling the cups of the men (Beowulf 61-2).

It is significant that Beowulf does speak at length (at least for Beowulf) about women, again not in the field, but back at base, and he warns of the folly of involving them in the relatively simple and predictable affairs of men, as he sees it. Having too great an attachment to women, his mother in particular, is part of Grendel's perversion.

Conversely, the involvement of women is the defining fact in Erec's story. After Guinevere sets him motion, Erec is drawn with almost gravitational certainty towards a love story: his willingness to take up fighting challenges entails a need for arms, and this, given the assumptions of romance, leads to the involvement of a woman, and we expect this to be a romantic involvement. Where Beowulf has specifically scorned using daughters as bargaining chips and as the means to ally powerful or important men, for Erec and for the romance audience, this is the most natural thing in the world. Where Beowulf would have either simply shrugged off his lack of armor and would have never connected his need for arms with a marriage, for Erec one leads naturally to another, and so the same recognition of Erec's worthiness that causes the destitute vasovar to rather abruptly hold forth his daughter and announce " `Here,' said he `I'll give her to you' " (Chretien 45). The defense of Guinevere's honor leads directly to a contest over beauty, which leads on to a series of battles which all test and re-forge the love relationship. Erec's opponents, like him, have relationships of their own with women, and those relationships define why they oppose Erec, and how they will play out their knightly battles. On the masculine-centered, battle-oriented level of Beowulf, Erec's story could have ended before it began, and could have ended with any of his victories that establish his prowess as a warrior. But Erec's story is about his Queen, her ladies, Erec's mother, and many others, most prominent of them, his wife. It isn't over until his relationship with her reaches a level of maturity that satisfies Chretien and his audience.

This emphasis on relationships, and the goal of a much more sophisticated domestic stability than that sought by warriors like Beowulf and Hrothgar, is the catalyst that transforms the relatively one-dimensional plotting of the earlier stories to the multi-layered romantic plot, and the logical implications of this relationship-centered catalyst are a set of dilemmas and paradoxes that don't exist for Beowulf, but are at the core of Erec's story. Once entering this arena, the stage is set to generalize the more abstract notion of an idealized relationship between a knight and his lady to the similarly subtle and complex relationship between the Christian knight and God, at least in the form of transcendent ideals made immanent though concrete symbols such as the grail. The kinds of changes that take place in the transition from Beowulf to Erec are a record of the creation of a symbolic language for using stories about fighting to talk about psychological needs and conflicts that otherwise remain inexpressible up to this point, and we can anticipate from this the full range of inquiry that will become possible once this symbolic language becomes fully developed.


Elenchos: (none / 0) (#1)
by Slobodan Milosevic on Wed Oct 17th, 2001 at 07:57:39 PM PST
What do you mean by ammunition?

Oh nothing. (none / 0) (#2)
by elenchos on Wed Oct 17th, 2001 at 08:06:14 PM PST
There've been some gender issues raised lately, and many would find inspiration in either example. Some would want to follow the self-sufficient, masculine, and basically ass-kicking Beowulf model, while I think an equally good case could be made to imitate the willowy, prissy, pussy-whipped yet misogyinistic and psychologically abusive Erec paradigm.

Pick yer poison.

Thanks to whomever fixed my <U> tags, btw.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

Guess what? (5.00 / 1) (#3)
by poltroon on Wed Oct 17th, 2001 at 10:12:37 PM PST
Zizek thinks that today the lady in courtly love is your computer.

Zikzak! That Painter of Light guy?!? WTF? (5.00 / 2) (#4)
by elenchos on Wed Oct 17th, 2001 at 10:56:50 PM PST
Since when did you start hanging out with him? Since when do you get your opinions from Zikzak?

It's because he's an editor, isn't it? That's all you ever think about now: ooooh Adequacy Editors are sooooo sexy. My DREAM MAN is an Adequacy Editor. Ohhhh When are YOU going to be an Adequacy Editor? Have they made you an Editor yet? How much longer? Do some WORK, elenchos. Write some stories, so you can be an Adequacy Editor, why do you just goof off when you could be WORKING so they'll make you an EDITOR!

Blast it woman! Who's the breadwinner here? Who is supposed to work and who is supposed to live the life of luxury? Let me give you a few hints:

Does the LION, king of the beasts work like some slave, like a termite? No! The Lion does not WORK! The Lion has no JOB!

The LionESS has a job, not the proud Lion. The lioness goes forth into the world and fusses and labors, and she carries home the kill to give to her LORD, the LION. Now, we know what I am. I am the LION, you are the LionESS.

And what does an Adequacy Editor do? He EDITS! Hello? That is no fit task for a LION! That is freakn WORK for the love of Holy Christ ALMIGHTY!!!! Your boyfriend Zikzak is a common LABORER! He as a JOB!

Hey look, if that is what you want, fine. Go run off with some sissy boy who toils like a little bee. Who bows and scrapes like a common slave for his paltry wages. A villian, a mere employee.

You know what I am. I am no cur, no clown. I do not work for a living like some Adequacy Editor, my darling. I am a lion.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

hear hear! (none / 0) (#5)
by Frithiof on Thu Oct 18th, 2001 at 08:47:05 AM PST
you are an inspiration to us all, elenchos


huh? (5.00 / 2) (#6)
by poltroon on Thu Oct 18th, 2001 at 09:45:06 AM PST
Slow down! I said Zizek. You know, the Lacanian scholar. Please tell me you know who he is! How do you expect to ever be awarded an editorship if you can't quote Lacan? Do you realize how unbearably unsexy such a lacking would make you? I'm starting to think that maybe I don't really know you.

Please tell me more (none / 0) (#7)
by hauntedattics on Thu Oct 18th, 2001 at 10:24:52 AM PST
I'm fascinated by this idea that the computer is today's equivalent of the lady in courtly love. Please tell me more about Zizek and his ideas, or at least point me in the right direction.

The idea that technology and Lacan go together is pretty mind-boggling. (Of course my knowledge of Lacan is pretty limited, but...)

That's why... (none / 0) (#8)
by tkatchev on Thu Oct 18th, 2001 at 10:47:49 AM PST
...the "Amiga"[1] is female-gendered.

[1] You know, as in "my computer is my female friend".

P.S. Think of the implications of this especially when coupled with the fact of the g**k cult surrounding the Amiga!

Peace and much love...

I never thought of that before... (none / 0) (#10)
by hauntedattics on Thu Oct 18th, 2001 at 01:38:20 PM PST
...but the way you put it, it does make sense. I guess I've always thought of my laptop as (a) a tool for getting work done; (b) an effective way to pass (waste?) time, esp. with the internet (but before that with solitaire); or (c) a complete freaking pain in the ass when it breaks down or doesn't do what I ask of it.

Or there's always (d): heavy.

Ohhhh! Zizek! OK. (5.00 / 1) (#9)
by elenchos on Thu Oct 18th, 2001 at 11:01:16 AM PST
Well never mind all that then. But don't think I'm going to go around doing work just so you can tell all your mod Hollywood friends that you are dating an Adequcay Editor. One of the worst Liberal Myths if the 20th Century is this exaltation of common labor. Enemies of the natural social order (i.e. COMMUNISTS) believe in work.

Anyway, of course I know all about Zezik. Zeezak's analysis of Tristan and Isolde will no doubt form the core of the next romance we turn to in our class: Tristan and Isolde. I particularly like the way he connects The Borg, the Noosphere (an idea central to the philosopher Eric Raymond) and the Other of the computer/ courtly lover. Sometimes it's hard to discuss this kind of thing, because certain types will automatically accuse you of just tying to pull out provocative ideas for no good reason except to create controversy.

I have a problem with Zazak saying that the courtly love tradition simply is an act of males iscribing their idealized other onto the women. It ignores the development that occurs in stories like Erec and Enide. By the time they become king and queen, Erec and Enide have learned a new appreciation of one another and have re-defined their roles in a way that lets Erec reconcile his task as a knight with the requirements of courtly love.

And I don't get how COMMUNIST leaders can really be parallels of women in romance. Real medieval women lacked much actual power, so clearly placing them in the commanding role in love tales was an expression of fantasy and aspiration for the audiance of noble men and women. But COMMUNIST leaders also weild real power. So while they may be projections of a society's ideals, they also get to make up the rules.

Remember now: I am the lion, not some busy little rodent. Perhaps if an Editorship means that much to you, it could be obtained in a fashion appropriate to my station. With a little baksheesh passed around here and there to the right people, surely it could be arranged to everyone's satisfaction. That would save me the indignity of condescending to scrabble and toil for this token of status as a lesser man would. Perhaps you should occupy yourself with the task, while I await the news in a state of unmoved dignity.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

I like the world of the beehive, me. (none / 0) (#11)
by chloedancer on Thu Oct 18th, 2001 at 07:09:55 PM PST
Many forget that it's the female that is the worker bee, but that it is also she who plunders the flowers and cross-pollenates.

Male bees (drones) do exist, but they're only useful if a new queen needs a sperm donor. And they don't survive the mating ritual, either -- pity.

I can't think of a more perfect paradigm, really, although the Praying Mantis and the Black Widow Spider are also intriguing.

and (none / 0) (#12)
by Frithiof on Thu Oct 18th, 2001 at 07:24:49 PM PST
and what would happen to the hive if there were not so many males willing to donate thick ropes of semen to the queen? that's right. they would all die off.

men are essential in any society, be it animal or human. don't forget that.


It would never happen, m'friend... (5.00 / 1) (#13)
by chloedancer on Thu Oct 18th, 2001 at 08:39:38 PM PST
The queen bee of a hive determines how many drones exist in her realm, as drones can only develop from her unfertilized eggs. Therefore, she has ultimate control over what she lays. There's even a check-and-balance in effect, believe it or not. The worker bees feed the brood/larvae. If they detect an imbalance, they simply stop feeding the drone cells (given that they're generally useless pricks without stingers, all things considered). Truly, the strength of the colony depends wholly on the number of worker bees that exist at any given moment... To keep the honey stores maximized, they endeavor to keep the number of drones that hatch to a bare minimum (as they are naught but freeloaders, all things considered). The final grace? Realize that a queen bee must only mate once to be fertile for the duration of her lifetime... During the consummation of this act, the drone's abdominal segment is severed from his body and pumped dry while he dies -- he doesn't even get to live long enough to brag about it.

All in all, the fastest, strongest and most virile drones are pretty much fucktoys with a death wish. The rest are worthless, useless ornaments who die celibate and unfulfilled. Don't believe me? Check it out: Honey Bee Biology.

And who shall we blame for this my vast wealth of knowledge regarding this subject? My father, of course. For my 16th birthday, instead of giving me a car or something equally mundane and predictable, he gave me two beehives (Midnight and Italian breeds) and a life lesson I have yet to fully realize. If only he'd known how he was shaping my destiny, he might have reconsidered.

Oops! (5.00 / 1) (#14)
by chloedancer on Thu Oct 18th, 2001 at 08:52:36 PM PST
I kind of forgot to address the issue of the drones choosing to refuse to mate... Forgive me, please?

A queen can mate with any breed of drone -- it need not be one from her own hive. And there will always willing victims who will follow the pheromone trail, no matter what. Since the dead can't warn their living breathren about the high cost of fulfilling the biological imperative associated with fertilizing the queen, how ever could they collectively decide to refuse? It's poetic, really.

"The drones could be called the couch potatoes of the insect world. While they wait for an opportunity to mate with a virgin queen, they are fed and cared for by workers, and only occasionally fly out of the hive to test their wings. If no opportunity to mate arises by fall, the drones are ejected from the nest by the workers and left to fend for themselves. " It just keeps getting better and better, the more I think about it...

hrm... (none / 0) (#15)
by Frithiof on Thu Oct 18th, 2001 at 09:21:42 PM PST
I wouldn't mind being being fed and cared for by endless female workers. Of course, it may mean I don't get laid, but that's a small price to pay for being able to live a life of supreme laziness. :)

Besides, I don't think I'd want to be 'sucked dry' (well, maybe I do)...especially if it results in my death.


What a way to go, right? (none / 0) (#16)
by chloedancer on Thu Oct 18th, 2001 at 09:37:09 PM PST
It all depends on what you can live with, truth be known.

interpretations differ (none / 0) (#17)
by Peter Johnson on Thu Oct 18th, 2001 at 09:45:04 PM PST
...the drone's abdominal segment is severed from his body and pumped dry while he dies...the fastest, strongest and most virile drones are pretty much fucktoys with a death wish.

That's one interpretation. One could also draw the conclusion that you do not need a head or even a heart to be all that a female requires.
Are you adequate?

And what, exactly, (none / 0) (#18)
by chloedancer on Thu Oct 18th, 2001 at 10:15:11 PM PST
has trying to appeal to the hearts and minds of men netted me over the years? I'm beginning to realize that catalysts are, at best, only bystanders in a scene that swirls around them; at worst, they're martyred or defamed after the fact.

And if I followed my nature, I'd be ruthless. But instead, I choose to value integrity. Think of it as evolution in action (or perhaps I've only emasculated myself, whichever).


All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments are owned by the Poster. The Rest ® 2001, 2002, 2003 The name, logo, symbol, and taglines "News for Grown-Ups", "Most Controversial Site on the Internet", "Linux Zealot", and "He just loves Open Source Software", and the RGB color value: D7D7D7 are trademarks of No part of this site may be republished or reproduced in whatever form without prior written permission by and, if and when applicable, prior written permission by the contributing author(s), artist(s), or user(s). Any inquiries are directed to