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Video: Why sinners were called "the daughters of Melusine", or the myth of the damned fairy that shaped Europe
2023 Author: Richard Flannagan | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-24 13:10
According to ancient legend, Melusine was the daughter of a Scottish king and a fairy. As a result of the curse, she was doomed to change from a woman to a monster every Saturday. Her two legs became fish tails. The image of Melusine is ubiquitous. It is a frequent heraldic symbol. Every European nation has legends about this fairy, and many royal dynasties descend from her. Melusine's image has even become a Starbucks emblem. In the patriarchal Middle Ages, this symbol of female power became a real instrument of propaganda.
Melusine was first mentioned as a mythical creature in medieval literature in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. She is associated with the most powerful French nobles of the time, the Lusignan family.
There is a romantic myth in the historical texts of the cleric Gauthier. This is a story about a young man named Henno. He met a beautiful maiden in a Norman forest who was crying bitterly. She told the young man that her ship was shipwrecked and she alone was able to escape. The ship was taking her to France, to the court of the king, whose wife she was to become.
The girl said her name was Melusine. Young people passionately fell in love with each other and got married. They lived happily ever after, they had many children. Everything was fine until the mother-in-law intervened. Henno's mother noticed that her son's wife was afraid to take the sacrament and be sprinkled with holy water. She spied on her daughter-in-law when she was bathing and learned her terrible secret. It turns out that Melusine turns into a dragon! Encouraged by his mother, Henno poured holy water on his wife. Melusine howled terribly, jumped out the window and disappeared forever. Gaultier wrote that his contemporaries were many of the offspring of Henno and his dragon wife.
Another famous work on this topic was written by the English cleric Gervasius of Tilbury. He told how a young nobleman Raymonde accidentally killed his master while hunting. The frightened young man rushed in despair to run wherever they looked. Lost in the woods, he meets a beautiful creature there - a girl named Melusine. She promises to help the young man in his trouble. Raymonde fell in love with a beautiful stranger at first sight and invited her to become his wife. Melusine agreed on one condition. The husband should never go to her washroom on Saturday, otherwise he will suffer a terrible punishment.
A happy family life was spent in wealth and pleasure. Raymonda, thanks to his wife, became very rich and multiplied his possessions. The couple had many lovely children. One day, out of envy, brother Raymonde slandered Melusine, saying that she was cheating on him. Blinded by jealousy, the husband burst into his wife's chambers and tore off the curtain behind which Melusine was bathing. To his horror, he found there, instead of the woman he loved, a creature with two disgusting fish tails. She let out a cry of despair and, turning into a dragon, flew out the window. Raymonde never saw her again. The nurses said that sometimes she came at night to look at her children.
The meaning of the legend
In folklore, such a plot is called a story about a broken ban. A nymph marries a mortal. He bathes in prosperity and wealth as long as he keeps his promise. However, if we set aside the symbolic meaning of betrayal, then a completely different essence of the story will come to the fore. Loyalty, of course, was of great, special importance to society. But this is not the main message. A creature of this kind, like a mixture of dragon and snake, carries the meaning of the devil's personality. The duality of his nature is perfectly reflected. He is both a beautiful angel and a terrible monster.
Raymonde and Melusine's relationship exemplifies the sale of the soul to the devil, the essence of feudal prosperity. The nymph offers her mortal husband wealth and happiness in the sense that was seen in the Middle Ages. This is the uprooting of forests and the construction of castles, big cities, bridges, roads. Modern people see the image of this fairy of feudal times, to a greater extent, as positive. She gave her husband everything he could dream of, and he betrayed her and made her unhappy. In the Middle Ages, this was not so loyal. Melusine was seen as the prototype of the first created woman. She was seen as Eve, who cannot be forgiven.
The progenitor of kings
The famous royal dynasty of the Plantagenets, the Counts of Anjou, in the eyes of their subjects fully embodied the devilish offspring of Melusine. The desire for power, endless bloody showdown within the family. According to the texts of Giraud de Barry, King Richard the Lionheart replied to the remark about his cruelty and family strife, “Why do you think everything should be different? Aren't we all children of the Devil?"
Melusine in art
Meanwhile, Melusine appears in German literature in a male form. It is the Swan Knight, Lohengrin, who came out of the water, became a man, and married a mortal woman. He took an oath from her to observe a certain prohibition, but she broke it and Lohengrin left her forever. This character was glorified by Wagner in the opera of the same name.
In the 15th century, the Melusine novels were translated into different languages and spread throughout Europe. They were a huge success. In the 16th century, the novel reached the Slavic world. First in Poland, then in the Czech Republic. In the 17th century, it was translated into Russian. Melusine's story was a resounding success. They staged plays and wrote songs based on it. In folklore and art, it is very widespread.
At the same time, the implantation of the Melusine myth on the real earthly soil of the West abruptly ends. Henry III destroys the castle of Lusignan, which became a stronghold of the rebellious lords during the period of religious wars. Half a century later, the surviving tower of Melusine is destroyed to the ground.
The first feminist
The legend of Melusine benefited from her resemblance to the image of the water fairy, Ondine. The latter was popular and was also the spirit of water. Only Melusine was also the spirit of the forest. In times not so far from modern ones, a completely new quality was given to her image. She became the model of the very feminine existence. Ladies' circle in Denmark, for example, chose the image of Melusine as their emblem.
The mysterious fairy has become a true symbol of feminism due to two features. The first is that her image is a symbiosis of positive and negative in the relationship between mortals and beings of a different order. Good fairies brought wealth, power and glory to the sons of men. In the Middle Ages, the image of Melusine was demonized as much as possible. Sinners were commonly referred to as the "Daughters of Melusine."
The second sign was that Melusine was performing in the main pair. She fully realizes herself and her self. Melusine's story is the most vivid expression of the meaning of success, with its ups and downs. The feudal fairy left Europe a sweet taste of success with a bitter taste of fall. This predetermined the society's outlook on prosperity and wealth. Melusine will never let him forget that both the medieval feudal lord and the modern capitalist, for the sake of prestige, power and wealth, are ready to make a deal with the devil.
For more on another progressive lady who influenced history, read our article: The recently discovered treasure of Queen Boudicca has shed light on the most romantic page in Celtic history.