© 2014 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
 

Themes

"La Belle Dame Sans Merci" is part folk ballad, part romance, and part fairy tale. The lady's "wild" eyes suggest that maybe the knight isn't too far off when he calls her "a fairy's child." She appears out of nowhere, apparently lives in an "elfin grot" in the woods, and can ensnare any man she meets with her beauty, her "fairy's song," and her "language strange." Is she casting a spell over them, or are they just too easily obsessed with whatever beautiful woman is in their immediate line of sight? How much magic is there in this poem?

Questions About The Supernatural

  1. How is the knight able to understand the lady's "language strange" (line 27)?
  2. How does the knight know that she's a "fairy's child"? What does that mean, anyway?
  3. Does the lady actually use magic on the knight? When? How can you tell?
  4. Is she an evil fairy, or a misunderstood fairy?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The lady of "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" could be read as simply a mortal woman who broke the heart of the knight. His re-telling of the story, however, casts her as supernatural in order to excuse his own weakness.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
back to top