From the Middle Ages to Modernity: The Intersecting Supernatural Worlds of Melusine and Today’s Popular Culture
By Sarah Stark
Undergraduate Honors Thesis, Ouachita Baptist University, 2011
Introduction: While some may scoff at fairy tales as juvenile, primitive, or superstitious, they have always held a special fascination for me, and I am not alone in this – stories about magicians, monsters, and mythical creatures have captivated their audiences’ imaginations for thousands of years. Feeling myself consistently drawn toward this type of story, I began several months ago to study supernatural tales from the medieval era as well as those popular today, and I have since discovered numerous worlds in which the natural and supernatural coexist. Creatures seemingly human are, in fact, sometimes more-or less, depending on one’s perspective. Families are cursed, friendships and romances spring up among mortals and fairies, vampires, and other fantastic ilk, and things are rarely as they seem.
Among these stories, my research has focused on Le Roman de Melusine or L ‘Histoire de Lusignan, a fourteenth-century Middle French tale composed by Jean D’ Arras. This work contains many elements common to supernatural tales of its time-shape-shifting, magic fountains and marriages between humans and fairies – yet it is also surprisingly relevant to our own age, whose popular culture is saturated with modem myths and vampire love-stories. Intrigued by the similarities between this medieval tale and the books, movies, and television shows currently prominent in our own culture, I began to look more closely at the parallels that exist between the two and to wonder how and why these same types of stories have continued to hold their audiences spellbound across the centuries.
Before I enter into more detailed discussions of these questions, however, I must recognize that many in my own audience are unfamiliar with the tale of Melusine as well as with the twenty-first century supernatural tales included in this paper; consequently, I am including short summaries of each major work I have studied so at the end of this paper, in hopes that these appendices will acquaint my readers with the tales and make my insights into their parallels and appeal more apparent.