Ashara Dayne: The Lady of Shallott

The Lady of Shalott, John William Waterhouse

Under tower and balcony,
By garden wall and gallery,
A pale, pale corpse she floated by,
Deadcold, between the houses high,
Dead into tower’d Camelot.

-Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Lancelot is closely associated with three women named Elaine, one of many applications of triplism in the Arthurian cycle. As previously mentioned, Elaine of Corbenic becomes the mother of his son, Galahad. His mother is Elaine, the wife of King Ban of Benioc. When they are forced to flee their lands, Lancelot is taken by the Lady of the Lake and raised, as was Arthur, in ignorance of his identity.

Elaine of Astolat, better known to many as the Lady of Shallott, falls in love with Lancelot at a tournament, is rejected by him and later when she dies of a broken heart, her body is floated downstream to Camelot, where the reason for her death becomes known to the court and all mourn the tragedy of her demise. While not completely analogous, this story has strong elements of the Ashara Dayne story as we know it: a noble young woman, a lover at a tourney, death from a broken heart and her body floating away.

As Lancelot was unhorsed by his cousin Bors at the Astolat Tourney, one has to consider  Brandon Stark, a young man who fought in the tourney at Harrenhal and was unhorsed by Prince Rhaegar, in the role of Lancelot here. Barristan Selmy, who loved Lady Ashara from afar, thought about quote “the man who had dishonored her at Harrenhal” in the same thought as someone with the name “Stark.”

In the case of Elaine and Lancelot, she tended the wounds he sustained. If Ashara and Brandon were connected at the tourney, perhaps a situation somewhat parallel to that of Robb Stark and Jeyne Westerling may have arisen. Brandon, we have every reason to believe, did not possess the extreme sense of honor that his nephew, as Eddard’s son, would later show. Based on what we know of Brandon, he would leave in the morning, pleading his commitment to Catelyn Stark and leave Ashara to cope with the consequences.

Taking Ashara’s story and its parallels to Elaine of Astolat at face value doesn’t rule out other possibilities, such as a faked death or the child surviving. Rather, the analogy enhances these possible scenarios.

 

4 Comments

  1. Love all these essays on the Arthurian/ASoIaF parallels. You’re brilliant. Have you ever listened to Loreena McKinnet’s (sp?) music. She has a song The Lady of Shallot, based on Tennyson’s poem. It’s lovely as is all of her music. As lovely as your thoughts on this interesting subject.

  2. I thought of Ashara Dayne in reference to the idea of the handmaiden. In Arthurian legend, there are the three Guinavere’s. Two are born on the same day to two different women. Their father was Leodegran who is said to have slept with his wife and her handmaiden on the same day. Both daughters were named Guinavere.

    Leodegran is also known as Llewellyn or similar variant. I’ve wondered as some have if this does not imply that Llewyn Martell was Ashara Dayne’s lover or even Rhaella.

    Similar in vein to biblical story of Sarah and Hagar, where Sarah unable to give Abraham any children gives him her handmaiden who becomes pregnant and then becomes pregnant shortly there after. Isaac and Ishmael

  3. These are wonderful parallels. Thank you for sharing. I also was pleased to listen to Loreena McKinnetts song of the Lady of Shalott!! I always had that poster of her depiction by Waterhouse hanging when I was younger. I am grateful for you all who uncover these parallels to make reading ASOIAF even more colorful!!

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