The Beautiful and the Monstrous: Femininity in Beowulf and Marie de France's Lai de Lanval

  • Madison George-Berlet


This essay considers how Grendel’s Mother from
Beowulf (ca. 1000) and the Fairy Queen from Marie de
France’s Lai de Lanval (ca. 1170–ca. 1215) function within
their respective texts as examples of subversive femininity,
challenging dominant patriarchal structures. Engaging
with previous scholarship that considers the feminism of
these characters, I investigate how Grendel’s Mother and
the Fairy Queen rebel against the contemporary values
of their societies by holding courts, accruing wealth, and
appropriating male roles, and yet ultimately submit to the
needs of male protagonists.