Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Icelandic Horse in Medieval French Romances--Part 1

From the Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry
Jens N. Faaborg  authored a book titled Animaux domestiques dans la literature narrative française au Moyen Âge  in which he examines the role of domesticed animals in the French medieval literature. Much of his book is devoted to the role of the horse since that animal is overwhelming mentioned the most in literature of that timeframe.  He looks at horses as defined by usage, breed, color, etc.
One of the "breeds" that he mentions is "norrois palefroi" or Norse or Norwegian palfrey, which is gaited: 
"Dans un nombre considérable des exemples où une dame monte sur un palefroi, l’épithète norrois s’accole à notre terme. Nous supposons qu’il est question de petits chevaux norvégiens (d’autant plus qu’il y a aussi des occurrences avec l’épithète petit). Il y a quelques rares occurrences avec les épithètes gascon et breton, mais les palefrois norrois sont de toute évidence les montures préférées des dames. Nous avons trouvé quelques exemples où ils sont montés par des hommes (voir supra, Dole, 2174-7)" :

"Rough Translation: In a considerable number of examples where a lady goes on a palfrey, the Norse epithet is tacked to this term. We assume it refers to small Norwegian horses (especially since there are also instances using the epithet small). There are few occurrences with Gascon and Breton epithets but the Norse palfreys are obviously a favorite of the ladies. We found a few examples where they are mounted by men."
Quotes from French literature:

Mais, ensi qu’il se combatoient, atant es vous vers aus venir
une damoisele sour un palefroi noirois (...) TP, vi, 118, 21-2.
Une courtoise damoisele,
Qui molt ert avenanz et bele,
Desus .i. palefroi norrois, Claris, 810-2. Cf. ib., 23718-9.
Gui dist à Ayglentine, le preus et le courtois :
’Damoisele, brochiés le palefroi norrois — Gui de N., 1487-8.
Rois Loth et rois Baudemagus
Sont vers Blanchandine venus,
Par la regne la vont prenant
Del noirois palefrois amblant. Floriant, 6007-10.
Desor un palefroi norrois Blancandin, 685.
A tant en vont andui ensamble,
La mule la damoisele amble
Plus tost c’uns palefrois norois. Cont. P., i, 1887-9.
De l’un un palefroi norrois Erec, 2386. Cf. ib., 2615 ; 4126.

Source : http://www.europeana.eu/portal/record/2021301/DAAEB4C5374CAC44A223EA2607E6A6A91EE7CFFC.html?start=24&query=medieval+horses+&qf=TYPE:TEXT&startPage=1&rows=24
Ah, but you might say that the term Norrois refers to the breed Norwegian Fjord.  To the best of my knowledge, this breed has never been gaited.  And, believe it or not Charles Dickens can help us more closely determine the source of Norrois horses.  He quotes M. Francisque-Michel, a French author, as placing the origin of the Norrois horses, famous in the 13th century, as orginating in the Orkney Islands or Greenland.  I wonder if the author could have confused Iceland with Greenland?

I have to admit that these Norrois  horses are still a hit with the ladies.  ;-) 

Source: Bentley's Miscellany, Volume 53 Charles Dickens, William Harrison Ainsworth, Albert Smith,-- “Horses and Studs in France, “Richard Bentley publisher, 1863

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