6. What is the story of Le Fresne?
This is called Le Fresne which is a story about twins separated at birth, and they end up separated because of a womans bad behavior.
She takes one of the girls and gives it to a servant woman who takes the child and leaves it near a monastery with marks of a piece of brocade and a golden ring. Shes found by a servant of the monastery and raised by the abbess in this convent. When shes coming of age, news of her beauty begins to spread and this knight, Gurun, hears of her beauty and falls in love with her before hes even met her. He actually gives gifts to the monastery, hoping to appear pious but actually to get access to this young woman whos called Le Fresne which means the ash tree, because she was left in a tree to be discovered. She takes Gurun as her lover and, ultimately, goes to his castle and is living as his partner. The couple seems very happy until this knights vassals castigate him for not taking a wife.
A vassal is a person who has become, in the language of medieval documents, the man of another man. He is willing to serve another man of higher status who is his lord. Usually this relationship of dependence is given a certain mutual character by the lord giving his vassal a piece of land or fief in return for the loyalty, faithfulness, and military service. Most of these stories turn on the nature of this relationship and this bond and what are the appropriate behaviors on each side, particularly the loyalties that one owes.
This passage is this key turning point in the story where her knight, her lover, is confronted by his vassals and with this choice that he needs to make. It does reveal something about power, but also about this womans response. How should you respond when, all of a sudden, your lover decides to do something alarming?
After she, Le Fresne, had been with Gurun for some time, the landed knights reproached him for it severely, and they often spoke to him saying that he should take a noble wife and free himself of Le Fresne. They would be happier if he had an heir to inherit his land and it would be a grievous loss if he did not have a child by a wife on account of his concubine. They would never more consider him their lord, nor serve him willingly, if he did not do their bidding.
The knight agreed to take a wife on their advice and so they looked to see where one might be found. Lord, they said, close to us here is a worthy man quite your equal who has a daughter as his heir: much land will come with her. The damsel is called La Codre and in all the land there is none so fair. In exchange for Le Fresne, whom you will give up, you will have La Codre. On the hazel there are nuts to be enjoyed, but the ash never bears fruit. We shall seek to obtain the damsel, and if it please God, we shall give her to you.
Thus they sought this marriage and assent was given by all parties. Alas! What a misfortune that the worthy men did not know the story of these damsels who were in fact twin sisters! Le Fresne was kept hidden from the other girl, who was then married to Le Fresnes beloved. When she learned of the marriage, Le Fresne showed no displeasure but served her lord properly and honoured all his people. The knights of his household, the squires and the serving-boys, grieved much because they were going to lose her.