Yolanda of Vianden was the daughter of the Count of Vianden, and the book is about her struggles to be allowed to be a nun. This epic poem was first written down in 1283, and was inspired by a real person. Yet and I would probably assume it has the same troubles as eulogises and epic poems created at this time regarding truthfulness. Despite this I have found it to be one of the more interesting medieval literature regarding women. While she does have a touch of holier-than-thou, in the same bane as fighters who can’t be beaten, there is some effort to try to make her a more complex person. In the beginning, when Yolanda first decided that she was going into a specific holy order the poem states:
However still her body lay,
her heart was engaged in a great struggle.
Her spirit wanted to flee the world,
her body began to continually resist.
She took it to heart – how she would have to
leave her father and her mother,
her sister and her brothers, country and people,
all the comfort and joy that she pursued.
Then her clear eyes grew wet,
her heart lay in the glow of lamentation.
When she looked back and saw
what she had promised, her heart was full.
She grew braver than a man,
beginning to take comfort in her whole life,
right up to her death.
If the poem had been more of this I think it would have been better, but that’s a very modern take on it. In the other medieval book I’ve read about a nun, characterization isn’t front and centre. Non of the medieval books I’ve read has had characterization front and centre. It was the action that was important. And there is a surprise amount of action considering it’s about a girl wanting to be a nun. Attacking a monastery, beatings and threats of death. It’s almost as action packed as the book about the nun that dresses up as a soldier and travels to Latin-America. Why Yolanda has chosen to be a nun is hardly touched upon.
I was happy I read this book as I am trying to read more medieval (to span my horizon) and struggling to find books I like. The two books about nuns are maybe the great exception. I was really not aware that saying medieval books about nun is probably a safe literary bet was where I would end up when writing this review. Go figure.