Strange Encounters

Strange Encounters

One striking way in which romances entertained their audiences was by the unexpected, bizarre or shocking. A devil in disguise makes love to an unsuspecting duchess (Sir Gowther); the child of a mixed Muslim–Christian marriage is born without limbs or features (The King of Tars); a father kills his children to bathe his leprous friend in their blood (Amis and Amiloun); a woman is set adrift on the ocean with her baby, who is snatched away by a griffon (Eglamour of Artois). Dragons, wicked stewards and dangerous enchantresses are all (un)natural denizens of romance. Such extravagant plotlines prompted criticism of romances for, as Thomas Nashe (1567–c.1601) put it, their ‘worn-out absurdities’. As with the uncanny figures of later Gothic fiction, however, romance’s strange encounters are not simply included for sensationalism. They encourage their audiences to explore unspeakable fears and desires, neutralizing their danger, at least for a while, by defeating the monstrous, or purging the sinful.

In the romance Eglamour of Artois, Sir Eglamour is set a number of seemingly impossible tasks by the father of the woman he loves. At one point he encounters a huge boar, the remains of whose...

A personal collection of romances

In the first part of The Awntyrs off Arthure (The Adventures of Arthur), Gawain and Guinevere (‘Dame Gaynor’) encounter the decaying corpse of Guinevere’s mother, which rises from a...

A ghostly encounter

The Vernon manuscript is one of the largest and most magnificent books to survive from late-medieval Europe. It is a compendium of religious and moral texts compiled in the West Midlands at the end...

The story of the lump child

In Amis and Amiloun, the eponymous protagonists are inseparable and indistinguishable; they also swear an oath to help one another, come what may. Amiloun agrees to impersonate Amis to help his...

A romance blood-bath

The romance Partonope of Blois derives from a late twelfth-century French romance of love and magic, Partonopeus de Blois. In this romance, the young hero Partonopeus is transported to a strange city...

Partonope of Blois

This manuscript is closely linked with MS. Douce 326, containing Amis and Amiloun. While they are now bound separately, it is very likely that they once formed one volume or collection of booklets....

The romance of Degaré

The Wife of Bath's Tale is a so-called 'loathly lady' story. In it, a knight rapes a woman. This shocking crime is punishable by death, but Queen Guinevere gives the knight a chance to live if he can...

Chaucer's loathly lady

Origin Stories
Origin Stories
Romance and the Medieval World
Romance and the Medieval World
Truth, Deceit and Desire
Truth, Deceit and Desire
Empires of Romance: Arthur
Empires of Romance: Arthur
Empires of Romance: Alexander
Empires of Romance: Alexander
The Objects of Romance
The Objects of Romance
Cities under Siege
Cities under Siege
Strange Encounters
Strange Encounters
The Fortunes of Sir Gawain
The Fortunes of Sir Gawain
Composing, Writing, Preserving
Composing, Writing, Preserving
The Percy Folio
The Percy Folio
Routes of Romance I
Routes of Romance I
Routes of Romance II
Routes of Romance II
Romance and the Modern World
Romance and the Modern World