The Lais of Marie de France

by

Marie de France

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The Damsel Character Analysis

The damsel is a nobleman’s daughter who falls in love with Milun. A resourceful young woman, she initiates their relationship by sending the knight a message. After their secret meetings lead to her pregnancy, she arranges for the baby to be raised by her wealthy sister in Northumbria. Meanwhile, the damsel’s father forces her to marry a powerful nobleman. For the next 20 years, she and Milun communicate by sending a swan back and forth with letters hidden in its feathers. After her husband dies, she finally marries Milun and is reunited with their son.

The Damsel Quotes in The Lais of Marie de France

The The Lais of Marie de France quotes below are all either spoken by The Damsel or refer to The Damsel. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Love and Suffering Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of The Lais of Marie de France published in 1986.
IX. Milun Quotes

But hear now what happened next. Using her ingenuity she got hold of ink and parchment. She was able to write whatever she pleased, and seal the letter with a ring. Having let the swan go without food, she hung the letter round its neck and released it. The bird was famished and eager for food: swiftly it returned home. In Milun’s town and in his dwelling it alighted before him. When he saw it, he was full of joy.

Related Characters: Marie de France (speaker), The Damsel, Milun
Related Symbols: Animals
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:

When Milun heard the news, it seemed quite wonderful to him. He explained this to his son. There was nothing to hinder or delay them. They travelled until they reached the castle where the lady was. She was delighted by her son who was so valiant and noble. They summoned no kinsmen and without the advice of anyone else their son united them and gave his mother to his father. Thereafter they lived night and day in happiness and tenderness.

Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Damsel Character Timeline in The Lais of Marie de France

The timeline below shows where the character The Damsel appears in The Lais of Marie de France. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
IX. Milun
Love and Suffering Theme Icon
Gender Roles and Class Status Theme Icon
...knight that he’s famous throughout Europe and is both loved and envied. A “most courtly damsel,” a nobleman’s daughter, hears about Milun and sends him a message, offering to be his... (full context)
Love and Suffering Theme Icon
Gender Roles and Class Status Theme Icon
When the time comes for the damsel to give birth, an old woman servant, who’s in on the secret, helps conceal her... (full context)
Love and Suffering Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Milun travels abroad as a mercenary, hoping to gain fame, and the damsel’s father betroths her to a powerful nobleman. The damsel despairs over this, afraid that if... (full context)
Love and Suffering Theme Icon
Gender Roles and Class Status Theme Icon
Milun’s letter instructs the damsel to figure out a secret way for them to meet and to send a message... (full context)
Love and Suffering Theme Icon
Milun and the damsel communicate this way for 20 years, with the swan acting as their go-between. The couple... (full context)
...go in search of his son, whom he hasn’t seen in all these years. The damsel agrees to her beloved’s plan. (full context)
Virtue, Vice, and Justice Theme Icon
Magic and Storytelling Theme Icon
...embrace, onlookers weep for joy. That night, Milun tells his son about his mother, the damsel, and how they’ve been forced to communicate by swan for all these years. The son... (full context)
Love and Suffering Theme Icon
Virtue, Vice, and Justice Theme Icon
...On their way, they meet a servant of Milun’s beloved, who informs them that the damsel’s husband is now dead. With no obstacles before them, the men hurry to the damsel’s... (full context)