In Brittany, there lived two valiant knights, who were good friends and neighbors. The wife of one of the knights gave birth to twin boys, word was sent to the other knight about the happy news. The knight’s wife was astonished that they would be celebrating something like this. She said that no woman could give birth to two children unless she was involved with two different men. Word got out about what she had said, and she became greatly hated. The messenger, meanwhile, went back to his lord and told him what was said. He was very upset, and lost all trust in his wife; from then on she was constantly watched.
The hated lady conceived twin girls that same year. She was so ashamed that she threatened to kill one of the girls, but the ladies around her would not hear of it. The lady had a maid, who had come from a noble family, and she offered to take one of the girls and abandon her at a church. The lady was overjoyed. “They wrapped the noble child in a cloth of fine linen and then placed over her the finest piece of striped brocade which her husband had brought from Constantinople…with a piece of her ribbon, the lady attached to the child’s arm a large ring made from an ounce of pure gold, with a ruby set in it and lettering on the band” (62).
The maid took the baby girl to an abbey and placed her in an ash-tree outside of the abbey and left. The porter found the baby in the tree, and took her to his recently widowed daughter, who had a newborn herself. He told her to clean the baby up and feed her. Later that day, he told the Abbess about the baby. She ordered him to bring the baby to her. The Abbess decided that she would raise the girl as he niece, and the porter was sworn to secrecy. She was named Le Fresne, because she was found in the ash-tree.
She grew into the most beautiful woman in all the land. Gurun of Dol had heard about the girl and fell in love with her. On is way back from a tournament, he stopped at the abbey. He asked to see the girl, and found that she was exactly as he had heard. He was worried that if he came to the abbey to often, the Abbess would guess his intentions, and would not allow him to see her anymore. He decided to give the abbey a large amount of his money and a part of his land. He came to see Le Fresne often. Once he was sure that she loved him he asked her to go away with him. She agreed. By this time the Abbess had told her the story of how she came to be at the abbey, and had given her the precious possessions that she had arrived there with. Le Fresne took those possessions and left with Gurun.
Gurun’s fellow knights were very unhappy about the girl. They did not want their heir to be born from a concubine. Gurun agreed to take a wife. They found a worthy woman named La Codre. Gurun would give Le Fresne to La Codre’s family in return for their daughter’s hand. Le Fresne was kept away from La Codre.
Le Fresne did not show any displeasure about Gurun marrying another woman. On the day of the wedding, La Codre was brought to Gurun, her mother accompanied her. Her mother was scared that Le Fresne would come between her daughter and Gurun, and she intended to have her married off. La Codre and Gurun were married.
Le Fresne served La Codre and her mother without contempt. The lady loved Le Fresne dearly, and thought to herself that if she had known what kind of person Le Fresne was, they wouldn’t have taken Gurun away from her.
Le Fresne oversaw the making of the wedding bed. She spread her brocade over the bed. The Archbishop came and blessed the marriage bed. The lady brought her daughter in after everyone had left the room. She saw the brocade on the bed, and instantly recognized it. She asked the chamberlain where it had come from, and she was told that it was Le Fresnes. She had her brought into the chamber. She asked Le Fresne where she had got it, and Le Fresne told her the story. After she had finished her story, the lady announced to everyone that Le Fresne was her daughter.
She told her husband about Le Fresne. The knight embraced Le Fresne, and then went to tell Gurun about everything. The marriage between Gurun and La Codre was annulled, and Gurun married Le Fresne.
Chapter 4 “Bislavret” http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2274225/summary_of_the_lais_of_marie_de_france.html?cat=10
The Lais of Marie de France. Trans. Glyn S. Burgess. New York: Penguin, 1999.