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Authors: Gerald Morris

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BOOK: The Squire's Quest
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But what a love Chrétien's "courtly love" was! In his tales, knights swore eternal faithfulness to their mistresses—rather than to, for instance, their wives—and their mistresses ruled these lovesick knights with an iron hand. Also, nearly all the Arthurian love stories end tragically. For some reason, it was considered romantic to die for love. Not half-witted: romantic.

Of Chrétien's love stories, perhaps the least known is his
Cligés,
which forms the skeleton of this book. Chrétien's version, like my own, is divided in half. Part One deals with the love of Emperor Alexander, and the second part with Cligés and Fenice. All the most outlandish parts of this book were borrowed directly from Chrétien, including Thessala's Potion of Good Dreams, Fenice's fake death, and Cligés's double entombment.

Retelling
Cligés
has also given me a chance to explore a part of the Middle Ages that is often ignored: the Byzantine Empire. This proud empire, with its capital at Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey), was the direct descendant of the ancient Roman Empire. While Byzantium was nowhere near as strong as ancient Rome, it was still a formidable power, with its own traditions, its own preferred language (Greek, rather than Latin), and even its own distinct style of church. Such a tradition certainly deserves to be studied.

However, you'll have to do that on your own. What you'll learn about the empire in this book is neither very complete nor very accurate. The problem is that my source, Chrétien, wasn't very complete or accurate himself, and I had to choose whether to be faithful to history or faithful to my story.

Given that choice, I'll take the story every time. Historical accuracy isn't the point in Arthurian romances anyway. The few historical details that do appear in them are like bits of meat tossed into the fictional soup for flavoring. In the end, it all cooks together, and we swallow the whole dish. Just pretend it's historical, all right? And maybe you'll find something in the story that's
real,
which is not at all the same thing as
accurate
—and usually much better.

—Gerald Morris

BOOK: The Squire's Quest
3.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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