sleeping beloved

The Death of Zellandine’s Heart

Sin is accomplished, and has brought forth death.  For rape is as death to a woman (Deut. 22:26).  Themis caused Zellandine’s body to fall asleep; but it is this act that truly destroys Zellandine’s heart.

We want Troylus to be noble.  We want him to be worthy of Zellandine’s love.  We want the “happy ending.”  How can that happen now, when Troylus has done something unspeakably savage?…

sleeping beloved

Zellandine Awakes

Zephir forces Troylus to leave Zellandine when her father and aunt come to check on her.  Her aunt continues to care for the sleeping Zellandine as she grows great with child, and in due time Zellandine gives birth to a son.  As the babe is searching for milk, he begins to suck on her little finger – the finger with the splinter of flax.

Out comes the flax, and the curse is lifted… 

…And Zellandine weeps…

sleeping beloved

Zellandine the Survivor

I am still amazed at the tenderness with which the author depicts the emotions of a survivor of violence.  He captures the moment when the choice to be a survivor is made, and yet shows how that choice  is a constant struggle.  For as any survivor will tell you, shame and fear and secrecy are hallmarks of the continuous battle.  

The Enemy strives to have us define our identities by our circumstances.  Like Zellandine, our identities are assaulted in many ways.  The harsh words of a loved one, the disdain of peers, the emptiness of being alone…or perhaps you, like Zellandine, are a survivor of violence.    

We cannot control our circumstances, but we can control our reactions.  We have a choice: to become hard or to become strong.  You must not confuse the two…

sleeping beloved

Zellandine’s Choice

I didn’t want to write this blog post.  It felt too risky, too vulnerable.  I’m frightened someone will misunderstand what I’m saying, or they’ll take it out of context.  But I felt compelled to speak out for Zellandine in this matter; after all, she speaks for me in so many ways.  

Zellandine still loves Troylus and she chooses to run away to Britain and marry him.  This is perhaps the most controversial portion of the story to the modern mind.  How can she do this?  Why does she do it?…

sleeping beloved

Zellandine Restored

Last week we left Zellandine bereft, but choosing to be a survivor.  A part of her heart was missing, though, for how could she forget her lost babe? 

No mother can forget her child, yet God tells us it is more likely for a mother to forget than for Him to forget (Isaiah 49:15).  God did not forget Zellandine’s distress – and He has not forgotten yours.  Christ’s coming is evidence of this.  He came to heal, to free, to comfort, to restore.  We may not understand why evil things happen, but we know God does not condone sin and that one day all will be restored.  If not in this life, then in the next. 

While we wait for restoration, life goes on, as Zellandine’s did…

sleeping beloved

Awakening Hearts: From Zellandine to Talia

The only love that can truly awaken your heart is the love of Christ, to which the Sleeping Beloved saga is an allegory.  Each of our versions covers an aspect of the awakening heart.  Zellandine’s story tenderly depicts the emotional journey of a survivor of violence.  We saw how nothing – no terror, no pain, no abuse – could ever separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:35-379), and that His love is able to redeem all things (Isaiah 61:1-3). 

Because Zellandine’s story deals with the emotional journey of a survivor, it is timeless.  Our next heroine, Talia, is far more at home in the Medieval and Renaissance periods.  She speaks for a culture quite alien to us, a culture where women didn’t have a say and had to find contentment without love.  We saw this to a certain extent in Zellandine’s story; it is more pronounced in Talia’s…

sleeping beloved

The Love of the Father

Father is probably the first attribute we learn to associate with God, as it’s an easy concept for children to understand.  Granted, even the best of fathers can’t give as much love as God; but it’s such a tender picture of His love for us.

Talia’s father adores her.  A man doesn’t call fortune-tellers to his daughters crib otherwise.  He longs to protect her and ensure her safety.  When he discovers the danger, he immediately takes action.  There isn’t even a question in his mind!  Of course he will ban flax from his home.  Of course he will protect his daughter…

sleeping beloved

Talia’s Tale

Another king has taken control of Talia’s territory (a residual memory of the shifting political situation in Naples from the 1400s-1500s[2]).  We could certainly discuss the survivor motif once more (see my previous posts here and here); but I don’t think that’s quite the lesson we’re meant to learn from our Talia.

Throughout much of history, high-born women were given in marriage to secure political alliances.  These women were marrying strangers, a frightening concept in any era.  They had no guarantee of respect from their future husbands, let alone love.  Now, people are people, and I’m sure love blossomed in some of these situations…but there was no guarantee of it…

sleeping beloved

Changing Hearts

As I discussed last time, Talia speaks for the high-born women of the past.  Historically, a noblewoman’s worth was based on her ability to produce children, especially sons.  When a woman bore a healthy son, she secured her position and power.  (This is the world’s view, not God’s!)

It is no accident, then, that the king comes back to Talia and develops a “strong bond” after she has the children (named Sun and Moon).  Talia and the king are not in love, but the birth of their children gives them both what they desire: the king has a son, and Talia’s position is secure…

sleeping beloved

The Unloved “Other” Woman

The queen is in a loveless marriage.  She is childless.  In the eyes of the world, her position is shaky and her worth is of little value.  

The queen is a Sleeping Beloved, too.  Her heart has been asleep for far longer than Talia ever was.  Her soul is in pain, her wounds are deep. 

And then, she sees these beautiful children – the other woman’s children.  The queen is faced with her “failure” and her emptiness…and something in her snaps…