Heptameron Prologue

The Narrators
The Narrators of the Stories

What is the Setting of the Heptameron?

The Heptameron is a collection of short stories told by different narrators. In the introduction or prologue we are told that the narrators have been brought together by misfortune; they have been trapped near a mountain resort known for its healing waters after the September rains have washed away the roads. In order to pass the time, the members of this group tell each other stories on successive days. The person who tells the last story on each day picks who will go first the next day. The stories told on each day are organized by a theme, with corrupt members of the clergy and their exploits being favorite subjects.

Heptameron Stories
Heptameron Stories

Summary of the Prologue

The Heptameron begins on the 1st day of September at the baths in the Pyrenees Mountains which divide southern France from northern Spain. Many people have traveled to drink the curative waters or bathe in the health-giving muds of various pools and springs, seeking relief from various ailments.

After three weeks at these resorts the travelers sought to return to their homes in Spain and France, but just then it began raining so heavily that it seemed that another Deluge was coming. The rain fell so heavily that some feared that God had forgotten the promise that God had made to Noah not to flood the world again.

As a result of the rains bridges were washed away and roads became impassable. Small streams turned into raging torrents and many people were swept their deaths.

Amid this chaos, the elderly widow Oisille sought shelter at The Abbey of Our Lady of Serrance, in the valley of Aspe. An apparition of the Virgin Mary had been reported in the vicinity and the abbey received pilgrimages. The lady arrived at the abbey safely but most of her servants and horses perished on the way.

Oisille was later joined by other lost travelers, ten in total, who reached the abbey after a series of misadventures including a skirmish with bandits, and a man eating bear. An interesting detail given in the Prologue is that two of the men, Saffredent and Dagoucin, had gone to baths not for their health but to follow their lovers, who had gone to the baths with their husbands.

The little group is stranded until a bridge can be built over a raging torrent, a task that will take twelve days. There is nothing to do but wait, so Parlamente - after first asking permission of her husband to speak, as any dutiful wife of the period would do, suggests that Oisille, being the oldest and wisest of the group should devise some entertainment for the group.

The young widow Longarine adds that without some entertainment the group risks becoming "ill-tempered, which is an incurable disease; for there is not one among us but has cause to be exceeding downcast, having regard to our several losses." But Ennasuite laughed and said, "Every one has not lost her husband like you, and the loss of servants need not bring despair, since others may readily be found(!). Nevertheless, I too am of opinion that we should have some pleasant exercise with which to while away the time, for otherwise we shall be dead by to-morrow."

Heptameron Summary
Heptameron Summary

The Scheme of the Tales is Decided On

After the further discussion, guided by Oisille, the members of the party agree that they will do like Boccaccio and tell stories to pass the time, but unlike Boccaccio's Decameron, they "would not tell any story that was not a true one."

The stranded travellers agreed that they would each tell ten stories, for a total of one hundred. Each day the party assembled in a green meadow beside the river Gave and told the stories of the Heptameron.

It is clear from the introduction that Marguerite de Navarre intended the Heptameron to be a Decameron, that is a collection of 100 stories, but only 72 were ever completed.

Online Edition of the Heptameron

Marguerite of Navarre Day 1Day 2Day 3
Marguerite of Navarre The First Day of the HeptameronThe Second Day of the HeptameronThe Third Day of the Heptameron
Day 4Day 5Day 6Day 7 Heptameron
The Fourth Day of the HeptameronThe Fifth Day of the HeptameronThe Sixth Day of the HeptameronThe Seventh Day of the Heptameron

Day 8
The Eighth Day of the Heptameron

Who's Who in the Heptameron

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