The Lady of Shallot

I am fascinated by the way stories grow, change, and impact people. One that intrigues me is the tale of Elaine of Astolat (better known as the Lady of Shallot), and its different references hidden in pop culture.

The Story

Elaine of Astolat is a character in Arthurian legends who dies of her unrequited love for Sir Lancelot. (Bad move even liking that guy, Ellie. Stick to Galahad or Percival.) Meeting Sir Lancelot at a tournament, she is fascinated and asks him to wear her token. Sir Lancelot consents, borrowing a shield to disguise himself and winning the tournament. His victory comes at a high cost, and he is taken wounded to the Astolat castle where Elaine nurses him back to health. When he is well, she returns his shield she has been guarding, and he leaves the castle oblivious to her feelings. (In some versions he’s a jerk, but in the one I read he’s just clueless.) She does the sensible thing and dies of heartbreak, instructing her family to float her down the river to Camelot.

The Poem

Many artists throughout history have been fascinated by this tragic story, but one of the most famous adaptations is Lord Alfred Tennyson’s poem “The Lady of Shallot“.

“There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.”

This is the only part of the poem I’ve heard because of…

The Movie

Trust Anne Shirley to love such a tragic story! Her reenactment of Elaine floating down the river and her recitation of the poem are my favorite part of the whole movie. (Except for what happens directly following. That was too good.) 😉

The Music Video

When The Band Perry made a music video for their song “If I Die Young”, they drew on this classic story again. I don’t recommend the whole video, but at 2:07 she is holding a book of Tennyson poems and floating down the river just like Anne! At the end of the video, there is a shot of the book open to “The Lady of Shallot”.

The Joke

I adore this whole video, but the Easter egg is at 2:46 when the man in the boat is spoofing the music video that parodied Anne who reenacted the poem that was based on a legend. Phew. (That lived in the house that Jack built.)

Talk about a story! Are there any stories you have enjoyed seeing referenced in unexpected places?


One thought on “The Lady of Shallot

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