Isolt and Derdiru are two women from different worlds yet their stories have significant similarities. In an attempt to compare and contrast the lives and experience of the two women, it is necessary to identify each as per their individual attributes, challenges, and circumstances of their positions. Love and tragedy are vividly illustrated in both women’s lives; therefore, the significant theme in their lives.
The two analogies significantly focus on the tragedy resulting from love. Each woman in her own world falls in love with a man whose love she desires. The control of their predicament is beyond them. Isolt’s feeling of betrayal by Tristan signifies the loyalty he has for his country and the lack of gratitude on his part to her. Isolt being a healer of great reputation has a higher social stature and prestige among her people. Her abilities and fame are what brings Tristan to her care. Her continuation of taking care of his injuries despite the revelation of who he was illustrates her strength and professionalism. She refuses to let her person feelings interfere with her duties and responsibilities as a healer (Briton).
Whereas Tristan meets with Isolt as a result of his seeking medical attention for his wounds, the circumstances of Uisliu’s son meeting Derdiru are not the same. Derdiru’s birth was strange from other births. Its peculiarity came with prophesy of a beauty whose life is full of violence and death. This prophesies led to her adoption by the king of Ulster. The omens surrounding her birth brings about superstition. The king’s action of saving her at the time of her birth is a humane act on his part. His actions are contrary to the medieval beliefs of killing infants thought to bring undesirable omens with them.
Her growth into a young beautiful woman makes her the object of the king’s desire. Her presence in his care gives her a high social status than any other woman. Her life in isolation from the rest of the world makes her feel like an outcast. The seclusion makes her feel lonely since the only people she sees are her foster parents and the king. The human nature to need the companionship of others is brought about by her wish to meet the man of her dreams. Her foster father tells her that she describes Noisiu the son of Uisliu. She desires to meet him and makes an effort to do so. Her excitement at meeting Noisiu is an indication of her independent nature. She proves to have her own opinions on matters regarding her life. She refuses to acknowledge the opinion that she is another man’s property. She considers her affections towards Noisiu as her own free will. Binding herself to Noisiu proves that she makes her own choices contrary common belief of otherwise. The meeting of Noisiu the son of Uisliu and Derdiru signifies the beginning of their love.
The meeting of the two women with the men whom they fall in love with is under different circumstances. It was not Isolt’s wish to meet with Tristan, but their meeting was under circumstances beyond their control. Their meeting was by chance as a result of Tristan’s injuries and Isolt’s ability as a healer to cure him. On the other hand, Derdiru’s meeting with Noisiu was of her choosing, as he was a representation of her desires in a man to love. Derdiru seeks Noisiu out as the man she wishes to love and live with. The contrast is vivid as to the nature of the circumstances that lead the two women to meet their lovers.
Isolt’s expectation of fair treatment from Tristan indicates his failure to show gratitude to her. She considers his act of taking her to marry the king as an act of betrayal and enslavement. Her indignation is due to the lack of respect for her kind actions towards Tristan. Taking her as a trophy to the king of Cornwall makes her feel objectified. She considers herself a woman of stature and self respect. The idea of subjecting herself to her captors does not appeal to her and she makes a decision to exert her revenge on Tristan. This decision illustrates her as a resolute woman willing to die for her beliefs and dignity.
Her order to her maid to prepare the death portion illustrates her as a decisive and strong willed woman. The instructions given to her maid portrays Isolt as a woman who understands and appreciates her art and knowledge of portions, be they good or harmful (Heckel). The drinking of the portion brings out the emotions and feelings which they were suppressing. Their reaction indicates that the love between them was already there but hidden given their positions. The love portion acts as a conduit to bring out what they were already feeling but, did not want to show.
The use of love portion to bring out the feelings of love between Isolt and Tristan is significant in comparison to the use of a magic spell by Derdiru on Noisiu. Love to these two women does not come as a result of ordinary courtship but rather under unique circumstances. The similarity in the use of supernatural means to aid in initiating their love lives. The difference in them is that, in the case of Isolt and Tristan, it was not intentional (Wilhelm 228). While, in the case of Derdiru and Noisiu, it was intentional on the part of Derdiru, therefore, the difference.
Isolt’s marriage top the king is a matter of political prejudice and assertion of power on the part of the king. Her marriage to the king of Cornwall gives her a position of power as the queen and raises her social status to the highest level. This fact however offers her no consolation. Her feelings towards her position are resentful since it is against her will to be there. Her love for Tristan surpasses any position she acquires. Love in this aspect proves to have preference of any position or stature.
The affair between Tristan and Isolt is an indication of the desire to satiate their love. Love proves to be ignorant of the risks and danger that would befall them if caught. The king’s discovery of their affair brings about the sacrifice of Tristan’s life to his beloved Isolt. (Bédier).
When Derdiru binds herself to Noisiu, their bond is unbreakable. The realization of the consequences that will fall on them leads them to exile. The consideration of Derdiru as the king’s property makes it essential to run for their lives (Abrams). The reputation of Uisliu’s sons as ardent and fierce fighters assures them of acceptance by the kings of the countries they may seek sanctuary.
The two women are the objects of desire of kings. The kings want to posses their love even though the women do not feel the same towards the kings. The two women are in the custody of the kings, not by their own volition, but due to circumstances beyond their control. The two women fall in love with men who suffer the consequences of falling in love with the objects of kings desires. The difference in the two is that, in Derdiru and Noisiu’s case, they both manage to run to exile where they live together. In Isolt and Tristan’s case, they only find moments with each other when the king is not in the vicinity and in the cover of darkness.
The sons of Uisliu and Derdiru are given sanctuary by the king of Alba. Despite the resistance of the people of Alba, the king realizes the significance of their battles skills and offers them protection. Although they settle in Alba, Derdiru is not free to roam as she pleases and she confines herself to her quarters. She becomes the victim of her own beauty.
Derdiru’s beauty is a subject of interest to the king of Alba. Despite being in exile, she finds no consolation of freedom and cannot move freely without risking the lives of her companions. The curse of her beauty follows her wherever she goes. The king of Alba’s advances to her are an illustration of her attractive and irresistible demeanor. Her rejection of his offer indicates her loyalty and dedication to Noisiu. Material wealth and prestigious social status do not appeal to her. Her choice to follow her heart’s desire signifies her desire to be in love and happy rather than to have everything and be unhappy.
Derdiru’s loyalty and love for Noisiu compels the sons of Uisliu to seek sanctuary elsewhere. The realization and acceptance of her predicament makes Derdiru follow her love wherever it may take her. She resigns to the fact that she may have to remain hidden to save herself and her lover (Derdiru and the Exile of the Sons of Uisliu.).
Derdiru’s predicament is different from that of Isolt since she goes into exile to run away with her lover. Tristan, however, takes Isolt from her country to the king. Isolt does not run way with Tristan, but rather she remains as the king’s wife. Although, in both cases, the lives of the men are in danger, they choose to risk everything to be with the women they love. Derdiru beauty proves to be a liability to her since she cannot live freely as other women. The fear of her discovery is evident since she remains concealed to avoid recognition.
The tribulations of Uisliu’s sons appeal to their countrymen who beseech their king to allow them to come back. The rejection felt by the king motivates him to conspire on executing his revenge. The king feels that Derdiru is his to posses as soon as he eliminates Uisliu’s sons. He feels that Noisiu stole the most precious thing to him and his desire to have Derdiru motivates his plot. Derdiru becomes the object of conflict that arises as a result of her love for Noisiu. The tragic death of Uisliu’s sons results from the king’s jealousy and desire to posses Derdiru’s love.
The events that befall Uisliu’s sons have some similarity to Tristan’s predicament. Noisiu and Derdiru return to their homeland in the hope of living among their kinfolk happily. The desire for acceptance and to live freely is gladly welcome to Derdiru. She has no idea that the king feels anger at her relationship with Noisiu. The events of her return are devastating and heartbreaking to her. Tristan suffers the same fate when the King of Cornwall discovers his affair with his wife. The two men go to their countries where they succumb to the wrath of their kings. The difference arises where Uisliu’s sons are given the impression of a welcome to their homeland without realizing a trap awaits them. Tristan is, however, in his homeland and suffers his injuries as a result of discovery of his affair.
Derdiru’s capture after the death of Noisiu has no significance to her. She feels the weight of losing her love bearing on her. The king’s attempts at consolation become futile. Her dedication to her love and the devastation of his death makes her inconsolable. She feels the emptiness in life without Noisiu. The tragedy of her love becomes apparent to her. The significance of the murder of Uisliu’s sons brings about the curse of her birth. The king’s action ignites conflict in the country as people object to the killings.
The king’s realization that Tristan and Isolt’s affair was a result of a love portion makes him remorseful at the injuries that Tristan suffers as a result. He realizes that the circumstances that led to Isolt’s affair were beyond their control; therefore, blame does not solely fall on them but on the influence of the love portion. The king fails to realize that that love portion only brought out feelings which were already manifesting in them.
The death of the men in the two analogies ignites a series of emotions to the other men who are loyal to them. They fight for their fallen brethren giving them a semblance of recognition and loyalty. The difference in Tristan’s case is that his aide fights for him and dies in the attempt whereas in Uisliu’s son’s case the men who fight for them live on to continue their fight from elsewhere.
Derdiru feeling of hatred towards the king is a result of his ordering the deaths of Noisiu and his brothers. His attempts at befriending her are futile. She cannot bring herself to like a man who kills the love of her life. Conchobor fails to see that his action of killing Noisiu was the wrong choice to take if he wants to woo Derdiru. She sees him as a murderer and a villain who steals away her only happiness. She no longer sees meaning and reason to live without her lover. Her action of killing herself at Noisiu’s graveside marks the ultimate sacrifice on her part. She does not wish to have anything or anyone else in life apart from her lover and chooses to join him in death (Ireland's OWN).
Isolt follows Tristan to his ancestral home. Despite the discovery of their affair by the king, she does not stop loving Tristan. She makes a decision to risk her life and goes out to seek him. She is aware that Tristan is suffering from the consequences of their love affair. The realization that life cannot be meaningful without Tristan motivates her to seek him out. She appreciates the nature and devotion of his love to her. She finds him and he dies in his arms. His death breaks her spirit and she dies alongside him.
The two women suffer the loss of the men they love in the hands of other men whom they do not love. The kings in both analogies are the cause of the deaths of the women’s lovers. Both Derdiru and Isolt choose to die with their men. They feel that life without their lovers is insignificant and worthless. Their devotion to their lover is extending to their deaths.