Perceforest has been described as ‘a mine of folkloric motifs’, and is famous for featuring this, the first written version of the story that has come to be known as ‘the Sleeping Beauty’.
Troylus was riding in search of the beautiful Zellandine, whom he loved more dearly than himself. He rode through a near-deserted land until he found himself by the sea and came upon a ship blown off course by wind and tide. The crew told him they'd been heading for England but were now at the furthest tip of Scotland. They'd been sent from their home country of Zeeland to find a knight named Zelandin, urgently summoned by his father because:
‘A great wonder has just occurred in our land. Zellandine, the daughter of our lord Zelland, returned recently from Britain, and two days later the strangest thing happened – it's hardly credible: she was sitting with the other maidens when she fell so deeply asleep that she hasn't woken since! Her father is beside himself with worry.’
It's no wonder that Troylus was distressed by this news: Zellandine was the woman he loved most in all the world. The sailors told him doctors had been powerless to help her, and he begged them to take him across to Zeeland, because ‘I know a good deal about medicine thanks to my father – he was one of the finest doctors in the world.’
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