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Title: "La nef dans la tempête". La leggenda di Helsin tra dogma e realtà politica
Authors: Malas, Odile
Keywords: The legend of HelsinPolitical implications of Wace’s translationMotif of the ship in a storm
Issue Date: 2007
Publisher: EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
Source: Odile Malas, “ "La nef dans la tempête". La leggenda di Helsin tra dogma e realtà politica", in: Prospero. Rivista di Letterature Straniere, Comparatistica e Studi Culturali, XIV (2007), pp. 45-60
Series/Report no.: Prospero XIV
Traditionally, ships were linked to the underworld and water was seen as the border between the world of the living and the one of the dead. This symbology dates back to the Egyptians, when the boat was a symbol of the passing of time and of the soul’s journey to the afterlife.
For Christians, the boat was the image of safety amidst perils, hence its identification with the Church.
In 1150 the Norman amanuensis Robert Wace translated "De Conceptione Mariae" into his dialect. The text, written by St. Anselm of Canterbury, narrates the troubles monk Helsin had to face before going back to William the Conqueror’s court after a difficult mission in Denmark. The ship was about to sink, when Helsin had the vision of an angel promising to save him and his crew in exchange for a vow: Helsin had to add the fest of the Immaculate Conception to the other festivals dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
The essay discusses the political implications of the text by Wace, since the author added a real event (the White Ship tragedy, a shipwreck in which the heirs of Henry Beauclerc, son of William Rufus, died) to the legend. Over time, the motif of the ship in a storm at sea became a literary scheme. In the essay, the case of the “Puys” of Northern France with their poetic competitions in which the theme of the Immaculate Conception was compulsory, is mentioned – along with some examples centred on the image of the sea and navigation.
Type: Article
ISSN: 1123-2684
Appears in Collections:2007 / 14 Prospero. Rivista di Letterature Straniere, Comparatistica e Studi Culturali

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