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The 13th-century “Constance” tales
By Thomas R. Leek
PhD Dissertation, University of Minnesota, 2009
Abstract: Four texts from the 13th century make up the first attestations of the “Constance” plot, a version of ATU 706 “The Father who Wanted to Marry his Daughter.” This dissertation harmonizes a comparative investigation of these tales with an analysis of the cultural milieu of the Middle Ages. The figure of the sexually persecuted and exiled daughter comes to the forefront of popular culture as discourse on repentance centers around the correction of monstrous sins. In the “Constance” tales, the daughter reconciles her repentant father and husband, between whom power is transferred on account of the heroine’s suffering. A thematically similar anecdote in the Chronicle of Morea points toward an international motif of an errant daughter benefiting the man she marries against her father’s initial wishes.
Excerpt: The “Constance” group is made up of a series of romances, histories, legends and folktales that all share a general plot type. Their attestation stretches from the 13th to the 20th century. Recent adjustments in the dates of composition for the stories have revealed that the earliest of them were likely recorded within two to four decades of each other. With some caveats, it is also safe to say that the first four attestations arose independently of each other. With this situation, the opportunity is available to describe and compare the four 13th-century variants without resort to diachronic arguments. The synchronic analysis of a plot’s structure does not exclude the consideration of historic developments within a tale; but the analysis of form is, as Propp held, a prerequisite for historical and critical inquiry (Propp 1984, 78). The following is a description of the four 13th-century works central to my study of the “Constance” group: Philippe de Remi’s Le Roman de la Manekine, Matthew Paris’s “Life of Offa I,” the anonymous Mai und Beaflor, and Jans Enikel’s “The Daughter of the King of Russia.”