Further reading

Strayer, Joseph R. Feudalism. Princeton, N.J.: Van Nostrand,

1965.

Alison Baker

FLORIS AND BLAUNCHEFLUR (FLORIS AND BLANCHEFLOUR) Anonymous (ca. 1250-1300) Floris and Blauncheflur, an anonymous Middle English romance written in the southeast Midlands dialect, exists in four manuscripts, all missing the first several leaves of the text. It is set in Spain, where Floris, the son of the Muslim king Fenix, and Blauncheflur, the daughter of a Christian servant, grow up together and are inseparable. Afraid that Floris will marry Blauncheflur when he comes of age, the king desires to kill the girl, but the queen convinces him to send Floris away and to sell the girl to a merchant, who then sells Blauncheflur to the emir of Babylon. Floris returns, and the king tells him that Blauncheflur has died. Distraught, Floris attempts suicide, so his parents tell him the truth. They help him disguise himself as a merchant, and then, armed with a magical ring, he sets out to rescue Blauncheflur.

Floris soon arrives in the emir's city and learns of the local custom: Each year the emir chooses a new queen from among the maidens he keeps in a tower. This year's choice is Blauncheflur. Floris gains entry into the tower by hiding in a basket of flowers, and the lovers are reunited. Soon after, the emir catches them and brings them to judgment before his council. Moved by the children's mutual love, the emir's men convince him to pardon them in exchange for their story. Floris then recounts their history, at which point the emir dubs Floris a knight and releases the lovers, who then marry in a church. The emir marries Claris, and the tale ends with Floris learning of his father's death and returning with Blauncheflur to claim his kingdom of Spain.

Along with King Horn and Havelok the Dane, Floris and Blauncheflur is among the earliest of the Middle English romances. Its source, the Old French aristocratic romance Floire et Blancheflor, was composed about a century prior. The Middle English version deviates widely. The shortened tale, about one-third the length of its analogue, is dynamic, with an emphasis on action, adventure, and dialogue. The result is a straightforward poetic narrative with a tightly constructed plot.

Floris and Blauncheflur was a very popular medieval narrative that was recounted in several vernacular (non-Latin) languages in addition to Middle English. The Middle English version is written in short couplets and features several popular romance motifs, including the donning of disguises, the possession of magical objects, the emphasis on love, and a happy ending. While no eastern analogue has been found, the romance's Arabic themes and images, including the emir's harem and his enchanted garden, indicate a definite eastern influence, and scholars have noted similarities in plot between Floris and Blauncheflur and some of the tales found in the anonymous Arabian Nights.

Several plot points make Floris and Blauncheflur an interesting example of its genre. For instance, it neglects the conventional subject of knightly behavior in favor of the idyllic love of its protagonists, which, with their overcoming parental and governmental authority, culminates in a dominant theme of amor omnia vincit (love conquers all). That the lovers are children and not adolescents (as in the Old French versions) underscores the purity of the characters' emotions. It has been observed that their similarity in names (Floris meaning "of the flower" and Blauncheflur meaning "white flower"), ages, and looks emphasizes their being two parts of one whole. The romance is also notable for its sympathetic portrait of the Saracens, itself unusual in medieval Western tradition. The entire action takes place in nonChristian countries (Spain, Babylon), and most of the central characters—Floris, his parents, the emir, and the helpful figures Floris encounters on his quest—are all Muslims who are likable, dynamic characters. This positive representation lends to the narrative's social, religious, and political dimensions, whereby the personal union of the lovers represents a healing of the west/east, Christian/Muslim dichotomy.

Postcolonial and feminist theories have informed more recent readings of the romance that examine its darker elements. While secondary to the overarching love motif, the topics of incest and slavery nonetheless run through the romance. Women like Blauncheflur, the child of a Christian slave in a Muslim world, are commodities to be bartered and sold, and the similarities between the children, coupled with the questionable identity of Blaucheflur's father, point to a possible incestuous relationship. Finally, scholars have begun to explore the linguistic, thematic, and narrative junctures in the romance, where east-meets-west topics reflect historical medieval events.

See also chivalry.

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