You can’t away from a little French when it comes to femmes fatales.
John Keats’ ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ or The Beautiful Lady Without Mercy is no different. In fact, Keats is said to have taken the title from a 15th century French poet, Alain Chartier, which stands to reason as the poem is very much set in the 15th century world of knights.
Not up for a bit of poetry? If you are, stop reading my drivel and go straight to the source.
If you’re not up for some poetry, shame. Let me fill you in on the details.
A knight is wandering around a bleak and lonely landscape only to be confronted by a woman with wild eyes who is more sprite than woman. He makes her some gifts and put her up on his horse. That is medieval courtship for you. She makes him something to eat, tells him she loves him and takes him back to her place. You know the drill. The details have changed but the format is the same.
Once they get back to her ‘elfin grot’ she gets a little upset and lulls the weary knight to sleep. At that point dream and reality merge. He dreams of death-pale warriors and kings (I think he is trying to say they are dead) who warns him that he has been seduced and bewitched by the woman who does not have any mercy. At this point, the knight himself is left inhabiting a ghostly place and we are left wondering whether he is dead or just dying.
Bleak stuff. The knight is attracted by the supernatural powers of the femme fatale. She appears vulnerable and quickly emotionally manipulates the knight who requires little provocation to provide her with gifts and take her for a ride on his horse.
Is Keats making a comment about unthinking chivalry or maybe the hidden seductive powers of women? Either way, the woman has no mercy and the guy has no future. Welcome to the world of the femme fatale.
A little change from the poetry, the next femme fatale on the hit list is Xenia Onatopp from the James Bond Classic Goldeneye.