Document Type

Honors Thesis




Sarah Harlan-Haughey

Committee Members

Joel Anderson, Laura Cowan

Graduation Year

May 2023

Publication Date

Spring 2023


While the nature of fictional fairies in medieval romance has been widely discussed and it has been acknowledged by many scholars that fairies typically offer some critique of the human courts in which they intervene, they have yet to be examined in relation to their ethical impact and conceptions of justice. In order to address this, this thesis performs a close reading of four Breton lays, Lanval, Graelent, Guingamor and Sir Launfal using a framework of medieval folklaw. The four fairies of these lays introduce to their respective poems a unique feminine ethic that critiques the enactment of trouthe practiced in the human court by appearing to human knights and testing them, exposing their moral failings and the ways they contribute to the corrupt ethics of the human world. These fairy mistresses further offer an alternative model of justice and trouthe, often more forgiving than the model used in the human court. This thesis demonstrates that fairies, far from being arbitrary or illogical, establish a subtly didactic undertone to the narratives in which they intervene.

Rights and Access Note

Copyright Abigail Roberts All Rights Reserved