The Editions Delcourt offers us a new saga: “ Tintagel ". Behind the name of the city of Cornwall, best known from the Arthurian cycle, actually hides a series adapting the legend of the two most famous lovers of the medieval novel: Tristan and Yseut. This legend put in writing at 12th century has been the subject of a multitude of versions throughout the West. Nine hundred years later, success is unabated and this comic seeks to offer as many people as possible this reflection on the exaltation of amorous passions and its devastating consequences.
Looking back on 900 years of success
The myth of Tristan and Yseut tells how Tristan, a young orphan champion recently introduced to the court of his uncle King Mark, accidentally drank the love potion supposed to bewitch his uncle and his new wife: Yseut. A passionate and purely magical love ensues between Tristan and Yseut, and unilaterally between King Mark and the latter. The lovers will eventually flee, will be found by King Mark who will forgive them as the effects of the potion wear off. Manganine the king will spare them and recover his wife, eternally haunted, however, not by the jealousy which pushes him to exile his nephew. Tristan will join his land with a new dispassionate love for a new woman. He will spend his life fighting until being seriously injured and having no more salvation than in the magical talents of his ex-concubine ... While this one is about to come to save him, a lie from his wife jealous pushes him towards death (by abandonment or suicide depending on the version).
As we can see in this very succinct summary (which deliberately does not reveal the many twists and details of the story) the essence of this tale is a medieval love story, far from courtly love, however. Courtly love generally consists of an impossible and controlled love between a man and a woman who is generally of higher rank and / or married. Courtly love is therefore chaste, controlled and fantasized love. Conversely, the story of Tristan and Yseut is a consummate, carnal and passionate love, but also, and above all, a destructive love. This uncontrolled love, tinged with adultery, brings with it jealousy and death. It can sometimes be interpreted as a warning to young lovers to open their eyes to the devastating and sometimes underestimated aspects of too free and passionate love. Others see it, on the contrary, as a hymn to amorous passion, so fiery that it can only find its denouement in physical death and find rest only in these tombs linked together by a bramble or a rosebush. For everyone to see and understand what their heart interprets of this legend, this kind of story is not an end in itself, but a basis for reflection.
Historically, this account is generally dated to the 12th century, although it is certainly inspired by earlier Celtic figures or epics. Moreover, as with the Round Table novels (which sometimes overlap with Tristan's story), it is wrong to speak of a story, because there are several. Perhaps there was an original story, but most certainly the stories complemented and inspired each other in a gradual way. Thus aspects of the story are told to us by Normand Béroul, Thomas of England, Marie of France, Ulrich von Zatzikhoven and at least seven other Western authors. It was not until the early years of the twentieth century that Joseph Bedier compiled and synthesized all the versions to create a "complete" work which is in fact an original creation.
Nonetheless, without being a unified narrative during medieval times, the love of Tristan and Yseut remains a classic among Western elites, a common cultural theme like the song of Roland or the quest for the Grail. We can thus find many references in art: furniture decoration, tapestry, illumination ... The theme is then taken up by the romantic artists of the end of the XIXth and the beginning of the XXth (painters like Frederick Leighton, composers like Richard Wagner …) Who thus find a formidable field of experimentation of passions, moreover in a medieval Gothic framework fantasized as they liked it so much. The theme never seemed to be exhausted and was adapted into a film with at least seven versions until the beginning of the 2000s. Nine hundred years of success which of course did not spare the comics since it is at least the third time. that Tristan takes back lives with the ninth art.
The "Tintagel" comic strip
In this first volume "Yseut la Blonde", Rodolphe, the screenwriter takes up the story of Tristan since the marriage of his father and his mother (sister of King Marc of Cornwall), the death of his parents, his childhood hidden as a son of one of his late father's barons, his capture by pirates, his arrival at the court of King Mark, the discovery of his true origins and his epic fight with a colossus of the Irish army ... a mortal wound inflicted by the colossus whose blade was poisoned, a wound that only Yseut, princess of Ireland and niece of the colossus could heal ... Then it was the triumphal return to King Mark, quickly urged by his barons to find a wife so that he has a son who keeps Tristan away from a possible succession to the throne. This future woman will be none other than Yseut and Tristan is in charge of going to look for her. For that he will have to defeat a dragon and the perfidy of an Irish baron. On his way back, sailing off the coast of Ireland, he unwittingly drinks with the princess a love potion that the Queen of Ireland had made to ignite the love between her daughter and King Mark. While he had sworn to accompany the princess with dignity to her husband, the magical powers of the potion push him to unite carnally with her ...
Taking the main lines of the legend, Rodolphe is doing quite well in this adaptation of the story to the comic strip. The texts are also embellished in a troubadour style to better immerse the reader in this fantastic medieval atmosphere and to reconnect with the orality which was the best vector of legend throughout the West. On the strength of this well-conducted scenario, the reader is immersed in an epic drawing of duels, dragons and princesses.
Planks with light shades and confident features participate in this immersion. However, one should not look for a historical reconstruction, neither of the 12th century (context in the writing of the legend) nor of the 8th century (sometimes considered as the context of the original myth). We find in the drawing elements of various eras and purely imaginary elements in a world above all fantastic and not historical. What is historical is the story, not the story told. On the other hand, for such a story based in the first place on the exaltation of unbridled passions (duels, war, love ...) we could have expected a darker, blacker, more Gothic design, with a more intense use of scenes of fights like erotic scenes. On the contrary, the whole remains quite good-natured, clean and prudent. A choice that perhaps gives the story a little less intensity, but which makes it accessible to a very large audience, including young people. A rather coherent choice for François Allot who among other things worked on the graphic design of the series "Ulysse 31" or for the magazine "Okapi".
Design: Françoit Allot
Colors: Christian Lerolle
- Volume 1: Yseut la Blonde