‘Legend For A Painting’ by Julia O’Faolain

Legend For A Painting by Julia O’Faolain, 1976

The magic trick:

Taking down the sexist tropes of medieval knights tales

O’Faolain takes aim at the genre of medieval mythmaking. The knights, the gallant rescues, the bravery.

The first sentence is so plain, it feels silly: “A knight rode to a place where a lady was living with a dragon.” The satire builds from there, specifically taking aim at the pomposity of the male knight seeking to rescue the helpless woman.

Comedy and social criticism ensue.

And that’s quite a trick on O’Faolain’s part.

The selection:

“What,” the lady wondered, “do you mean by ‘free’?”

The knight spelled it: “F-R-E-E,” although he was unsure whether or not she might be literate. “To go!” he gasped for he was grappling with distress.

“But where?” the lady insisted. “I like it here, you know. Draggie and I” – the knight feared her grin might be mischievous or even mad – “have a perfect symbiotic relationship!”

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