832)The Lady of the Lakeby Sir Walter Scott (1771- 1832)Type of Work:Romantic metrical poemSettingSixteenth-century ScotlandPrincipal CharactersJames Douglas, outlawed uncle of the Earlof AngusEllen Douglas, his daughter (The Ladyof the Lake)Roderick Dhu, a rebel Highland chief ofClan Alpine, and protector of the Douglas’sAllan-bane, the Douglas’ minstrel anddevoted servantJames Fitz-James, a Saxon Lowlander KnightMalcolm Graeme, Ellen’s young loveStory OverveiwJames Fitz-James, a Saxon knight fromStirling Castle, became lost as he hunted in the Highlands. Sounding hishorn, he was rescued – not by his comrades, but by Ellen Douglas, who,with her father, lived at Loch Katerine under the protection of her Highlandercousin, Roderick Dhu. Although the men were away, Fitz-James was takenin and extended Highland hospitality. It disturbed Fitz-James that thisgirl bore such a resemblance to members of the hunted Douglas clan.Order now
Nevertheless,he was smitten by Ellen’s beauty and kindness and dreamed of her as heslept. On the next morning Fitz-James left theisland with a guide. Later, Roderick and Douglas returned home from theirseparate journeys, Douglas accompanied bv young Malcolm Graeme. Roderick,a fierce, plundering, middle-aged warrior, hoped to i-narry Ellen, bothbecause he loved her and because their marriage would unite Clan Douglaswith Clan Alpine to create a powerful political force. Although Ellen appreciatedRoderick’s protection, she was frightened by his manner and had set herheart on Malcolm Graeme, her first suitor, whom Roderick despised. WhenRoderick extended his marriage proposal to her in the company of all, Malcolmdetected Ellen’s deep disquiet, but before he could speak, her father interceded,explaining tactfully that such a union would be a political misalliance;Roderick was a sworn enemy of the King, while he, Douglas, in spite ofhis outlawed status, still loved his monarch.
The great chieftain hated the King andcould not understand Douglas’ loyalty. Now his disappointment at losingEllen rose to intensify Roderick’s anger. He sent out a terrible signal- a fiery cross summoning his Clan Alpine to war. As the cross was carriedover the rocky highlands, all the clansmen rallied to support their chieftain. Roderick now petitioned Brian the Hermit to use his magic to give him anaugury for the forthcoming battle.
The oracle read: “Which spills the foremostfoeman’s life that party conquers in the strife. ” Roderick was reassured,for Clan Alpine had never fought but they were the first to kill a foe. Meanwhile, before setting out for StirlingCastle to give himself up in hopes of averting war, Douglas had conductedhis daughter, with the minstrel Allan-bane as her escort, to the safetyof a wilderness cave. Ellen knew her father’s intentions: , He goes todo what I had done,/ had Douglas’ daughter been his son!” There the refugeeswere found by James Fitz-James, returning to see if he could persuade Ellento accompany him to Stirling Castle. Ellen was dismayed.
Hadn’t Fitz-Jamesseen the preparations for war, the hills alive with Roderick’s men? No,the Saxon replied. The countryside had appeared quite serene. But thiswas the surest sign of danger, said Ellen; the wily Roderick’s troops mustalready have him surrounded. She promised to help him escape, though sheconfessed that her heart belonged to Malcolm Graeme. The knight remaineddetermined to help her save her father, however. He presented her witha ring from the Saxon royalty, saying that it would help her in her journeythrough Lowland territory and gain her an audience with King James.
Fitz-James departed, still following hisguide, Red Murdoch. Soon they came upon Blanche, a poor, crazed woman livingin the wilds. Long ago, on her wedding day, Clan Alpine had captured herand killed her bridegroom. From his green hunting attire, Blanche recognizedFitz-James as a fellow Lowlander. In a cryptic song she warned him to bewareof Murdoch.
The knight, acknowledging this warning, drew his sword justas the guide discharged an arrow from his bow. But the shaft missed itstrue target and felled the poor old woman. After chasing down and slayingthe treachtrous Murdoch, Fitz-James returned to dying Blanche, who gavehim a broach made of a lock of her dead sweetheart’s hair, with the chargeto seek out Clan Alpine’s Roderick Dhu and avenge her pitiful life. The Saxon set out, stealthily picking hisway through the undergrowth. Many hours later he stumbled upon a lone knightfrom Clan Alpine, bound by the same code of honor as he. The enemies sharedfood and a campfire,