Jurgen Summary

Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

In the old days, a middle-aged pawnbroker named Jurgen says a good word for the Prince of Darkness. In gratitude, the Prince of Darkness removes from the earth Dame Lisa, Jurgen’s shrewish wife. Some time later, Jurgen hears that his wife returned to wander on Amneran Heath; consequently, the only manly thing for him to do is to look for her.

It is Walpurgis Night when Jurgen meets Dame Lisa on the heath. She leads him to a cave, but when he follows her inside, she disappears and Jurgen finds a centaur instead. Jurgen inquires for his wife. The centaur replies that only Koshchei the Deathless, the maker of things as they are, can help Jurgen in his quest. The centaur gives Jurgen a beautiful new shirt and starts off with him to the Garden between Dawn and Sunrise, the first stopping place of Jurgen’s journey to find Koshchei.

In the garden, Jurgen finds Dorothy la Désirée, who was his first sweetheart and who retains all the beauty he praised in his youthful poetry. She no longer knows him, for she is in love only with Jurgen as he was in youth, and he cannot make her understand that in the real world she, too, is middle-aged and commonplace. Sadly he parts from her and finds himself suddenly back in his native country.

His friend the centaur becomes an ordinary horse. Jurgen mounts and rides through a forest until he comes to the house of Mother Sereda, the goddess who controls Wednesdays and whose job it is to bleach the color out of everything in the world. By flattery, Jurgen persuades her to let him live over a certain Wednesday in his youth with Dorothy la Désirée. When the magic Wednesday ends, however, Dorothy la Désirée turns into the old woman she really is, and Jurgen quickly departs.

He wanders again to Amneran Heath and enters the cave to look for Koshchei and Dame Lisa. There he finds a beautiful girl who says that she is Guenevere, the daughter of King Gogyrvan of Glathion. Jurgen offers to conduct her back to her home. When they arrive at the court of King Gogyrvan, Jurgen, pretending to be the duke of Logreus, asks for the hand of Guenevere as a reward for her safe return, but she is already promised to King Arthur. Jurgen stays on at court. He makes the discovery that he still looks like a young man; the only trouble is that his shadow is not his shadow; it is the shadow of Mother Sereda.

King Arthur’s envoys, Dame Anaïtis and Merlin, arrive to take Guenevere to London. Jurgen watches her depart for London without feeling any...

(The entire section is 1029 words.)