(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In this tale, Gustave Flaubert chooses to re-create the vision of the world of medieval faith, and tells a venerable story as seen through the eyes of the twelfth century, even as such a story might be told in stained glass. The hero is followed through the twists of a plot where his predestined place as a saint is proven through the testings of life and sin, repentance and redemption. The world of Julian’s birth is a perfect realization of the ideal manor life. Julian himself is the answer to his mother’s prayers, and his christening is attended by the appearance of two divine messengers, each with a different prophecy. To Julian’s mother appears the shadow of a holy hermit, predicting that her son will be a saint; to his father comes a Bohemian mendicant who predicts military glory, much blood, and an emperor’s family. Both parents keep their visions secret and Julian grows surrounded by every fond hope. His underlying fault, an unconquerable lust for killing, is unleashed by his trapping of a white mouse that has disturbed him at Mass. From this point, at first encouraged by his parents in the medieval art of venery, Julian pursues a path that reduces him to the most savage of beasts, killing for the sake of killing, returning home matted with gore. One day, after a hallucinatory sequence of killings, Julian mortally wounds a great stag that turns and curses him in a human voice, predicting that he will kill his own parents. Again, the prophecy is kept as a secret, but Julian’s fears make life at home impossible and he must forsake the world of his childhood. Thus ends the first segment.


(The entire section is 660 words.)