Thursday, November 1, 2012

Intertwined- The Fable of Tristan and Iseult

Tristan and Isolde (Merle)

Long before the stories of Romeo and Juliet or Guinevere and Lancelot, the “star-crossed lovers” fantasy idea had inspired many a tale. One that calls to mind is the story of Tristan and Iseult (often times her name is referred to as Isolde). The story of Tristan and Iseult began in Medieval poetry back in 12th Century France. (*one note, this story is more than likely what inspired the story of Lancelot, Guinevere and King Arthur’s love triangle).

It is possible that Celtic legend had influence over this tale, being that every notable country in Europe has its own version of the story. That leads me to the belief that once there may have actually been two people whose love story actually became so famous that stories would be written about them, thus securing their immortality in the written word.

There are so many variations of the tale that one could find themselves confused. I however, chose to write about just one version, the version I liked the best. In this story you find a love triangle of sorts, however it is only Tristan and Iseult who are madly in love with one another. 

Herbert Draper
As the story goes, Tristan was a Knight who was summoned to go to Ireland to fetch Iseult for his uncle the King to marry. After arriving in Ireland and escorting Iseult back towards their country they strike up a fondness for one another. During a stop in a village Iseult goes to a potion maker to find a potion to love the King she is about to marry. But after getting to know Tristan she decides to give it to him instead. She and Tristan both drank of the potion and both of them became so madly in love with the other that it was impossible for them to be apart.

After arriving back at the King’s court, Iseult marries the King but cannot rid herself of the undying affection and yearning in her heart for her Knight, Tristan. Although she has love for the King in the sense of honor and respect she cannot deny the passion in her heart for Tristan. The King loves his wife, and also cares deeply for Tristan being that he is like a son to him. Tristan loves Iseult  more than anything, but at the same time he is torn because of his love and respect for his uncle who was like a father to him. Thus, the love triangle began.

Edmund Blair Leighton
Eventually, their emotions got the best of them and they could not resist their urges to see one another.  In the cover of darkness, both Tristan and Iseult would sneak off together just to feel the others touch. As much as she wanted to respect the arrangement of her marriage to the King and for his kindness to take care of her, she could not resist the temptation to see her true love, Tristan.  As lovers usually are fools, so were the pair, and eventually the kings advisers and others in the kingdom started to figure out that there was something going on with the Queen and the Knight. 

One night the King follows Iseult on her nightly stroll, where he catches her meeting Tristan. They are both taken to the dungeon and found guilty of adultery. Tristan makes a deal with the King to spare Iseult’s life as long as he moves away and marries another. The King agrees and sends Tristan off to another area where he  is forced to marry some other woman. He is obviously still in love with Iseult, but keeps his word to leave the King and his beloved Queen alone. 

While in his new land, Tristan finds trouble and ends up getting poisoned by a lance while attempting to save a young woman who was being viciously attacked by six knights. While dying from the poison he commissions his friend to fetch his beloved Iseult, because he must see her one last time before dying.

He tells his friend that when he is sailing home to sail back with white sails if he had found and brought Iseult with him, or black sails if she did not accompany him back.  When the ship is in visual distance arriving back, Tristan’s wife (being jealous), decides to lie to him by saying the sails were black. In a last moment of grief and sorrow for knowing he would never see his love again, he took his last breathe and passed away.

Forever Intertwined
The sad thing was that as soon as Iseult learned her beloved had been hurt, she went on her way to see him as fast as she could. When she arrived and learned that he had just died moments earlier, she fell on her knees and swooned over his body, crying helplessly for her love. Her pain is so real and so intense that she couldn’t live without him. Her heart broke and she died moments later laying on top of his chest.

They were buried next to one another and on top of where their graves stood grew two individual trees, one a hazel tree, the other a honeysuckle. As the trees grew, they intertwined with one another forever connecting the two lovers. The King found out about this and ordered the branches be cut away from each other. But each time they were cut, even more grew back until it was impossible to fight. Eventually, the gardeners gave up and let the two trees be together, just as it was meant to be.

Tristan and Iseult, together, forever…..

(Copyright) 2012- Dreaming Casually by J'aime Rubio