Motif of the Separating Sword in World Art and Literature: A Study of Its Origins and Development

Author: Brockington, Mary

Adele Mellen Prize for Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship
A re-examination “the Separating Sword” that demonstrates the complexity
of intertextual influences across linguistic and cultural boundaries.


“. . . teases out the ways in which the tale is inflected across western European storytelling, and highlights the ways in which each of a string of inventive individual poets—in France, England, Germany—rethinks and rewrites the legend [of the separating sword]: as an exemplum to teach due repentance, as a cheerful romp, as an exploration of sexuality or of power, as a way of emblematizing male restraint or female chastity . . . not only does [the author] explore the roots of a little episode that is fascinating in itself, she also uses her detective work as a springboard for an increasingly comparative approach to the different versions of the Tristan and casts light on the different authors’ practices of re-appropriation and recombination.” - Professor Jane H.M. Taylor, University of Durham

“. . . the first truly comprehensive account of a symbol of chastity, fidelity and purity (and sometimes the reverse), and associated motifs, which have long intrigued storytellers and scholars alike. . . . makes an outstanding contribution to our understanding of human relationships, and divine/human relationships, as expressed in oral and written literature and in material and visual culture from ancient times to our own. . . . a potent reminder in our own times of the interconnectedness of cultures.” - Prof. Margaret A. Mackay, University of Edinburgh

“. . . takes the reader into a fascinating world of medieval narratives and symbols. . . . a mature work of scholarship written in an engaging style that guides readers through the complexity of the material.” - Prof. Gavin Flood, Oxford Center for Hindu Studies

Table of Contents

Foreword by Professor Jane H.M. Taylor
Prologue: Discovery: Tristran, Yseut and Marc
1. God and man: Semitic Origins
2. Misunderstanding and Misunderstood: Indic Languages
3. Man and man: Transmission to Western Europe
4. Enter the Woman: Brynhild Sigurd
5. Purity Preserved
6. Adultery, Discovery and Consequences: Tristran and Yseut
7. Representation and Re-presentation: Unending Evolution
Epilogue: Re-discovery: Thatcher and Gorbachev
Appendix I: The Separating Sword: Occurrences of Thompson motif T 351
Appendix II: Modern Tristran Adaptations: Bibliographies and Surveys