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Love and Death in Tristan and Iseult

In fact, it may be the essence of that will to live. Love is the universal vessel of forgiveness and redemption, as is death. The associations between life and death within The Romance of Tristan and Iseult carry a universal message of the power of true love and of its absolute finality.The first tale of love is the tale between Blanchefleur, the sister of King Mark, and King Rivalen, the parents of Tristan. Such was her love for King Rivalen that after his death she waited long enough for Tristan to be born before she let go of her spirit. Upon her first meeting with her son, she says, “And as by sadness you came into the world, your name shall be called Tristan. that is the child of sadness.” (p. 6). With this,Blanchefleur passes, her love for her husband greater than that of her son, for she would rather meet her husband in death than remain in life without him. With the naming of her child, Blanchefleur has settled a curse on him that will be revealed in the tragedy of his love.This prophetic beginning is a classic device to introduce the theme of the tale to its audience. The tragedy that cast a shadow of sadness over the birth of Tristan foretells what will befall him within the story. That he is named of sadness will shadow his story and prepare the reader or listener (if the story were told in oral tradition), what might be expected. This is similar to the origins of King Arthur, whose love was destined to fail because of the failed circumstances of his own birth. That is carried through by the circumstances of the birth of his own son.In Thomas Malory’s Le More Darthur, the story of how Arthur was conceived is revealed to him by Merlin in order to convince him that he is a child of a king with a birthright to rule. Igraine, his birth mother with whom Arthur was not raised, is sent for and is instructed to tell Arthur of his origins.

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