Little is known about the 15th Century trouvere, Jean d’Arras, except that he was one of the first to chronicle the story of Melusine and the noble history of Lusignans, somewhere between 1382 and 1394. Like most tales of the crusader period, the story has been reworked by various authors, including a much forgotten 1920s version by the French writer, André Lebey. The multifaceted Gareth Knight, known among other things for his scholarly work on mythological subjects ranging from the tales of medieval France to the subjects of the novels of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, serves up a rousing English translation that manages to retain some of the storytelling tone and spirit of both Lebay and d’Arras. Given his recently published and historically excellent Melusine of Lusignan & the Cult of the Faery Woman (RJ Stewart Books), Knight is uniquely placed to present this ancient tale in a new translation that will restore both authors to the English-speaking world.
As with the Arthurian legends, there are various competing claims as to the origin of Melusine legends, from the Scottish highlands to Celtic Gaul to the neighbouring Lowlands. Lebay’s version tells the story mostly from the viewpoint of Raymondin of Poitiers who accidentally kills his uncle while out hunting and flees deep into the forest until he encounters a faery by a fountain. The faery Melusine then woos him into a mysterious marriage fraught with strange contractual obligations, from which springs the marvellous House of Lusignan. As with many such legends, the magical union between faery and human is so easily shattered when doubt and treachery are allowed to take root. Knight’s translation stays faithful to the original text in that it allows itself to oscillate between the momentary historical digressions of the original author and the rip-rousing story itself. Of course, Gareth Knight is also a mythical novelist in his own right (see To the Heart of the Rainbow also from Skylight Press) so the story is always in very capable hands.
The Romance of the Faery Melusine is available from various retail outlets such as Amazon, or direct from the Skylight Press website.