When I was a young boy my Grandfather always liked to tell the tale of how he was wounded during the extraordinary battle that killed the great Roland. My grandfather was a brave knight that held all the qualities a knight was supposed to possess. He was a chivalrous, brave, strong knight that feared nothing. He had never been beaten in battle, and I suppose he never was. That is for you to decide. My grandfather served under the knight, Rowland, and his fateful assistant, Olivier.
He would describe these men as fearless, “for when they were armed and mounted on their horses, not even death could make them shy from battle” (Song of Rowland, pg. 167). My grandfather held both of these men in very high regard. He served them well, and was sad when he could no longer offer them his services. In this particular battle Rowland and Olivier are both taken from this world in death. Grandfather was by Olivier’s side when he felt the cold hand of death grab him and take him to the great beyond.
He remembers that Olivier fell to the ground and confessed his sins aloud and prayed that God might grant him paradise and give His (God) blessing to France and Charles (the King), and most certainly to his best companion, Rowland. Grandfather remembers that Rowland was a grief stricken man, who wept for his friend. He recollected that you would never see a sadder man than Rowland, over the loss of his dearest friend. Next, Grandfather would go on the remember Rowland’s death. He said you could see his brains oozing from his ears. Grandfather said that this is when Rowland blew his horn for help.
He realized that his time was drawing closer, and he like Olivier, prayed to God. (Song of Rowland, pg. 168-169) Grandfather said that this is when he too was wounded in battle. He was struck in the head and he stumbled into the woods where he lost his wits and fell into a deep slumber. When Grandfather awoke from his unconscious state the battle was over, and he found himself lost deep within the woods. Night had fallen, and there was a bright yellow moon overhead. He said he wondered around for some time trying to recall what had put him in such a place and state.
Grandfather would tell us that the farther he walked about, the deeper into the shadowy woods he wondered. While wondering in these woods Grandfather heard a frightful snap of some twigs. The first thing that came to Grandfather’s mind when he heard these snapping twigs was that someone was out looking for him. He began to call for help, hoping it was one of his fellow knights. What Grandfather saw next was completely unexpected. Instead of seeing a knight, or even a man, he saw a wolf-like creature in the moonlight. It was unlike any creature he had ever seen. This creature was hideous, yet beautiful and breathtaking all at the same time.
The fur was silvery in the shadowy light the moon displayed, and it had a domineering and strong stance, like it was a proud man, instead of a beast. Grandfather was enthralled with the creature and followed him into the forest for the remainder of the night. Grandfather said he followed the wolf-thing at a close distance until he reached the entrance of a cave. Grandfather dared not enter the cave, for fear of being ripped to shreds by the beast. After all he had escaped death once already that day. Grandfather said he felt compelled to wait outside the cave for a while, although he was not sure what he was waiting for.
After several minutes, or hours, Grandfather wasn’t sure, for he seemed to lose all sense of time in the forest; a man emerged from the cave. The man looked disoriented and wild-eyed, according to Grandfather. The man saw Grandfather and stopped dead in his tracks. Grandfather said they stared at one another for a very long moment, until the man spoke. He asked Grandfather who he was, and why was he following him. Grandfather explained his predicament, including the trauma from the battle, and how he followed a great and beautiful beast to this very cave.
The man sighed and said that he supposed that after such a trying day Grandfather deserved a truthful explanation. The man explained to my Grandfather that the blood of an ancient beast ran through his veins, causing him to turn into a were-wolf during the nighttime. The man said that he had been undergoing the transformation since he was a young boy, and he had developed the problem from his father, and his father’s father before him. It was a family curse that was passed down through the oldest son through generations.
The man went on to explain that no one must ever know of his curse or he would be labeled a menace to society and would surely be executed for having the devil’s blood inside of him. Grandfather promised the man his secrete was safe with him, and together the two men made their way through the forest. Grandfather and the wolf-man became close friends. Often Grandfather would accompany the man into the woods and watch over him to make sure he did not harm any other man. One day the man came to Grandfather and told him his wife was with child. He feared it would be born a male, and the curse would be passed on to him.
Inevitably the newborn was indeed a male child. As the child grew into a young boy it seemed that all of the cursed traits had skipped this generation. Then one night Grandfather met the man in the forest, and accompanying him was the young boy. The man told Grandfather that the boy had begun to show signs of the curse. The man and Grandfather told the boy what to expect, and that he could never tell anyone of his fate or curse. The boy grew into a young man, who became a knight after he became a man. He chose this noble profession because he respected and loved my Grandfather, like he was another father.
As the son grew older, the man grew older as well. He soon became sick, and died. Grandfather still treated the son like one of his own, and often joined him in the woods to offer protection when he would go on his wild excursions, that always followed his transformation into the were-wolf. Soon the son married a fair and sweet damsel. They seemed to live a happy and joyful life, until the wife began wondering where her husband ran away to at night. The son worried that his wife would soon begin asking where he went during his absence, so he asked my Grandfather for guidance.
Grandfather told the young knight that he must never tell his secrete, for fear that something dreadful might happen, and he would have to remain a were-wolf forever. The wife had a way with her husband. She began asking him questions about his whereabouts during the nighttime. She used her beauty and her wit to find the truth in her husband. He like many men before him fell prey to the ways of woman, and told her his secrete. (Marie de France, pg. 171) The young knight did not tell my grandfather he had revealed his secrete, for fear that it would hurt the old man.
The wife became very fearful of her husband, and soon began plotting against him. Meanwhile, Grandfather had fallen ill and was near death. He was a very old man by this time, and had lived a long and fulfilling life. Grandfather died soon after the knight had told his wife about his condition. The wife had enlisted the help of another knight to plot against her husband. She had grown fearful of him, and no longer wished to be married to him. The knight she asked for help from was one that held the lady dear to his heart, and would have been willing to do anything to help her in order to make her his own.
The lady told the knight about her husband’s lair that held his clothes, which was the only way he could change back into a man. (Marie de France, pg. 173) The clothes were taken from his lair and the man was not heard from again for a long time. This is where my Grandfather’s story ends and my story must begin. The young knight was missing for a long time, and many presumed he had run away from his wife and his duties. Oddly enough the king found a new pet the resembled a wolf, but was unlike any other animal many had seen before.
The only humans the wolf ever tried to harm were the lady and her new husband. Remembering the story of the were-wolf that my grandfather liked to tell, I was able to figure out the equation. I was able to make the lady tell me the truth about her husband. I told this unbelievable tale to the king, and he ordered the knight’s clothing be returned so that he might become man again. Remarkably the wolf transformed back into a faithful and brave knight, and the wife and her new husband were banished from the kingdom. (Marie de France, pgs. 172-174. )