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What is the relationship between love and material culture (objects, crafted things) in the

Lais of Marie de France?

First of all, theres so much emphasis on money, worldly possession, socio-economic status in
these stories. My favorite one has got to be the Lavan because of how he becomes a sugar baby,
the Lady literally saves him from ruin. Her gift to him is basically to have anything he ever
wants. The story itself is full of exclamation points, as if the author itself cant quite believe
Lavan has his money problems solved so swiftly by love. I find it particular, because it doesnt
seem to devalue the relationship. In the Equitan case, his Lady, wife of the seneschal (Marie de
France does seem to love infidelity quite a lot!), is worried their different standing will make her
vulnerable, but he reassures her that it makes no difference. Material culture seems vital in love,
not necessarily in the form of providing, but in the circumstances. All the characters are nobles,
kings, knights; the descriptions of the mysterious lover, or the mysterious boat/castle/et.,
are usually full of gold, silver, symbols of power and abundance. Even Lustic, which has a
fairly ordinary plot: infidelity, neighbors getting it on and a jealous husband, describes the lover
keeping the dead nightingale in a pure gold set with fine stones. Usually that doesnt affect
the love story actively. However, it is too emphasized to not be normalized as an inherent part of
love.

The stories that talk about objects directly are Guiguemar and Yonec. We see in the first one the
knot in Guiguemars shirt, and the belt in his Lady. These objects are more about loyalty than
about any sort of power, which makes them very different from the objects in Yonec. They
could be magic, as they cant be opened by anyone but the lovers; however, the focus of their
narrative is loyalty and reunion. The ring of Yonec is a whole other case. It is the most
interesting of the objects in the stories, its openly shown as magic and is a symbol of power as
such. It seems to represent the supernatural nature of Muldumarec, who could transform into a
goshawk, a very noble bird, while the sword represents his rightly place as knight and king.
The sword has a pretty passive role in that sense because its just an average sword; it doesnt
shine or make people recognize Yonec as heir. Unlike material culture as socioeconomic
standing or money, the physical objects in the stories are always given before separation and
become a relevant part of the plot. The undoing of the knot and the belt is what seals the reunion
of the lovers, while the ring and the sword allow Muldumarecs Lady to safely raise her child
until the moment of revenge. It could be argued that they make possible the triumph, in life or in
death, of love.