Chanson de geste

I know that a long time ago I read Tristan and Iseult and some Round Table stories. Don’t remember much. I’m reading them again, free English translations found at Project Gutenberg. At least I don’t have to translate in English some old French and all those medieval terms (although those are 10th century translations… but I guess medieval terms haven’t changed since then! ;-)).

I’ve read the Chanson de Roland first, as Robert and Manfred consider themselves “like Roland and Olivier”. I didn’t do it when I wrote the movies, so I’m adding lines here and there between the two of them about this very famous epic of their time. The translation by  John O’Hagan was fun to read as it was rhymed almost like the original.  In the translator’s words: “It is written in stanzas of various length, bound together by the vowel – rhyme known as assonance. It is not possible to reproduce effectively this device in English, and the author of the present translation has adopted what is perhaps the nearest equivalent – the romantic measure of Coleridge and Scott.” I think he did a very good job. I don’t like poetry very much, but rhymes catch my attention just like songs, so it wasn’t too bad reading it! 😉

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Now I’m reading Chrétien de Troyes, highlighting descriptions of clothes, armors and whatever was supposed to be used at the time. Even if Wikipedia (and a “history of costume” I have in French) says everybody wore bliauts in the 12th century, nobles sometimes had more, so I’m taking notes, know what I mean? 😉

The translation is less good, it’s probably too literal to be enjoyable, but it’s good reading to create the atmosphere of knights and tournaments (that’s another thing I’m highlighting), so it’s good background for the first part, “Tournaments”. I’ll go back to Richard of Holy Trinity chronicle of the crusade when I get to the “Pilgrimage” in part 2. By the way, “crusade” is a 13th century term, so you’ll never read that word in my novel. Robert and Manfred “take the cross” and “go on pilgrimage”.

For part 3, “Landowner”, I’ll probably re-read Lambert d’Ardres – except it’s old French and medieval Latin… see next Happiness is… vignette on Monday! 😉 Oh, and let’s not forget Fulk Fitz Warine… he’s an historical person like William Marshal, so I’m going to use only a little part of his adventures… he’s also struggling with King John (like Robert will), so I have another story to add in the third part (which, by the way, wasn’t in the movies, so it will be something completely new! ;-)). I had found one text, then I found another about the son (they’re all called Fulk…) which is even more interesting! 😀

So far, I’m having fun. I’m going slower than usual, but I don’t care. I’m enjoying the return to prose – writing the screenplay was a bit dry! 😀

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  1. Really interesting, Barb. I’m just doing twelfth century research at the moment. I’ve just written a quick blog on historical research.
    As you no doubt know, I’m writing the rough draft first and then finding what I want to expand on with research.
    upside down way of doing it but it works for me. Also enables me to concentrate on the character creation more.


    • glad to be of use! 😉
      I wrote the first draft as screenplay, so the novel is sort of second draft… with added stuff for depth! I’m hoping to finish Erec and Enide today and go on to the next Chrétien de Troyes epic… so far it’s fun! 😀


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