The Hawk, the Wolf, and the Mouse: Tracing the Gendered other in Richard Donner’s Ladyhawke

  • Angela Jane Weisl
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Richard Donner’s 1985 film Ladyhawke offers a medieval landscape richly distant from our own time.1 Although the film’s promotional materials claim it is based on “a thirteenth century European legend,” like many medieval truth-claims, this one turns out to be the product of invention, one of the few genuinely medieval qualities the work displays. Edward Khmara, the film’s scriptwriter, dispels this myth, suggesting instead that the story came to him while walking around Paris at night looking at gargoyles and old churches.2 That said, this sense of the medieval period as the stuff of legends and art informs the entire film, which traces the narrator, Phillipe Gaston (Matthew Broderick), also known as “The Mouse,” as he escapes the bishop’s prison in Aquila and ends up joining two cursed lovers: by night, Captain Etienne Navarre (Rutger Hauer) is a wolf; by day, his beloved Isabeau d’Anjou (Michelle Pfeiffer) is a hawk. After a variety of adventures, Phillipe finally helps the lovers return to Aquila, both to kill the evil bishop who has cursed them and to break the enchantment, allowing them to coexist in their human forms.


Human Form Fairy Tale Liminal Space Revenge Motive Hunting Bird 
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Copyright information

© Lynn T. Ramey and Tison Pugh 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Angela Jane Weisl

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