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Valentin et Orson (ca. 1498). Encyclopedia of Medieval Literature

Valentin et Orson is a late medieval French prose text
attached to the CHARLEMAGNE cycle of ROMANCES.
It was apparently written during the reign of King
Charles VIII (1483–98) and printed at Lyons
about 1489. The story, essentially a folktale about
twin brothers raised apart and reunited, was artificially
attached to the court of Charlemagne’s father,
King Pepin, and after its popular French
version appeared, it was translated into a number
of European languages.
The romance tells the story of Bellisant, King
Pepin’s sister, who is wed to the Byzantine emperor,
Alexander. She is falsely slandered by the
archpriest of Constantinople and subsequently
exiled by the emperor. In the forest she gives birth
to twin boys. One of the children (Orson) is
seized by a bear and carried off to be raised
among the animals, and eventually becomes a
wild man of the woods. The other twin (Valentin)
is found by King Pepin himself and brought to
court, where he is raised as a courtier and a
knight.
Years later Valentin comes across Orson in the
woods. With the special empathy of twins, the
two recognize one another. Valentin overcomes
his brother, brings him to court, and there domesticates
and educates the wild man. Together
the two have a number of adventures and, ultimately,
rescue their imprisoned mother from a
wicked giant named Ferragus. They are able to
accomplish this with the help of the dwarf Pacolet,
a servant of the giant who owns a fantastic
wooden horse that instantaneously transports its
rider wherever he desires.
There may have been an earlier French source
for the 15th-century romance. But there are also
Italian, Icelandic, German, and Dutch versions of
the Valentin et Orson story. An English translation,
entitled The History of two Valyannte
Brethren, Valentyne and Orson, was made by
Henry Watson and printed in 1550. There are a
number of later English versions, including a BALLAD
on the subject included in Thomas Percy’s
Reliques in the 18th century.
Bibliography
Dickson,Arthur.Valentine and Orson: A Study in Late
Medieval Romance. 1929. New York: AMS Press,
1975.
Valentine and Orson. Translated by Henry Watson.
Edited by Arthur Dickson. EETS, o.s. 204. London:
Published for the Early English Text Society
by the Oxford University Press, 1937.

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