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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)

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Human Form Fairy Tale Liminal Space Revenge Motive Hunting Bird 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 3.
    See Joyce Salisbury, “Introduction: What is an Animal?” The Beast Within: Animals in the Middle Ages, ed. Joyce Salisbury (New York: Routledge, 1994).Google Scholar
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    Sharon Farmer, “Introduction.” Gender and Difference in the Middle Ages, eds., Sharon Farmer and Carol Braun Pasternak (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), p. xxiv.Google Scholar
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    T. H. White, ed. and trans., The Book of Beasts (1954; New York: Dover, 1984, reference is to the 1984 edition), p. 7.Google Scholar
  4. 14.
    Der von Kürenberg, Lyric XV, quoted in Mark Chinca, trans., “Women and Hunting Birds Are Easy to Tame: Aristocratic Masculinity and the Early German Love-Lyric,” Masculinities in Medieval Europe, ed. D. M. Hadley (London: Longman, 1999), p. 202.Google Scholar
  5. 18.
    Geoffrey Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde, The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987). Criseyde’s dream of the eagle is in 2.925–31; the sparrow hawk metaphor appears in 3.1191–92.Google Scholar
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    Beryl Rowland, Birds with Human Souls: A Guide to Bird Symbolism ( Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1978 ), pp. 61–63.Google Scholar
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    Patricia Parker, Inescapable Romance: Studies in the Poetics of a Mode ( Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979 ), p. 4.Google Scholar
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    Martha Driver, “Introduction,” The Medieval Hero on Screen, eds., Martha Driver and Sid Ray ( Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2004 ), p. 9.Google Scholar
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    Catherine Brown, “In the Middle,” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 30.3 (2000): 547–74, at p. 548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Lynn T. Ramey and Tison Pugh 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Angela Jane Weisl

There are no affiliations available

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