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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: October ::
Thigh Wounds
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1942  Wednesday, 27 October 2004

From:           Richard Burt <
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Date:           Tuesday, 26 Oct 2004 12:46:20 -0400
Subject:        Thigh Wounds

This discussion from Arthur.net may be of interest to people who posted
on the topic of thigh wounds.

From: Arthurnet <
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Date: Tue Oct 26, 2004  12:26:52 PM US/Eastern
To: 
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Subject: AN 10/26 Swords &  Thigh Wounds
Reply-To: ArthurNet Mailing List <
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A wound in the thigh (especially the left one) is generally considered
as a sexual castrating wound, just like the wound between the thighs
(rather seldom). It is often inflicted as a punishment for a sexual
sin/luxury - which can be an explicit intention glossed by the text or
just a suggestion. This is, of course, a generalization and it can not
be concluded that any wound in the thigh in the medieval romances equals
castration.

All my best
Anna

Anna E. Korczakowska
Aix-en-Provence
France
*********************

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  ------------------
Kathleen asks:

 >Just wondered what listmembers think about the possibility that the
 >'sword not destined for him to touch' and the 'sword that will be mended
 >by the good knight'  are some form of fore-runner to Arthur's
 >sword/swords.?

I would say, off the top of my head, that the Arthurian legends are FULL
of magical items, especially weapons, especially swords.  They do seem
to often overlap, split (as Arthur's sword more or less becomes two
swords in the "Post-Vulgate" and in Malory), merge, and otherwise
generally influence each other.

 >Also can anyone tell me the significance of the wounds being in the
 >'thighs' - is it simply founded on the fact that this was a very serious
 >wound (if it was the main artery that was cut) - or does it have other
 >known 'spiritual' implications?

I'm not quite sure what you mean by "spiritual", but many have said that
part of the significance of the "thighs" is that this is the area of the
sexual organs.  Usually in the legends of the Holy Grail, after the king
has been wounded in the "thighs" his kingdom becomes desolate, turning
into a waste land.  It has seemed to many commentators that there is
some mystical connection between the fertility of the king and the
fertility of the land.  Which leads us off into Frazer's Golden Bough
and similar directions. I know that in at least one version of the Grail
story (can't remember which one off the top of my head), the King's sin
which causes him to be wounded is a sexual sin.

Karl

************************
In Marie de France's lai "Chaitivel" a knight is castrated in a
tournament. The nature of the wound is essential to the plot, because he
and his lady discuss the fact that he can no longer have sex with her.
The wound is described thus:

"E li quart nafrez e malmis / Par mi la quizze e einz al cors / Si que
la lance parut fors." ["And the fourth knight was wounded and in
distress through the thigh and thus into the body so that the lance
appeared on the other side."]

I can't help thinking also of the flaming spear which arrives in
Lancelot's bedroom early in Chretien's Charrete:

"At midnight a lance came like thunder down from the rafters, point
first, aiming to stitch the knight to the coverlet and white sheets and
bed where he lay, between his sides (par mi les flans). The spear had a
pennant which was all on fire, and the fire took hold on the coverlet
and the sheets and the whole bed. And the head of the lance passes by
the knight's side in such a way that he has just a little skin torn off,
but he isn't wounded at all. And the knight gets up, puts out the fire,
takes the lance and throws it into the middle of the room."

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