It is the 12th century and men still dominate many realms of our culture including literature. But we now have a voice emerging in the literary world that is from a woman–a woman who isn’t afraid to bring power to women. Her name is Marie de France.

How does Marie empower women? Mythical and animal characters that were men or genderless in their original fables are awarded feminine pronouns like “la.” These characters are then given stronger or more active roles that affect the overall progression and themes of their respective tales. Not only does this strategy make Marie’s tales unique from their origins, it also demonstrates to readers that women possess agency and have the ability to create an identity unique from their fathers or husbands.

In this day and age, Marie could author her works under a man’s name and write about male characters. Instead, she chooses to embrace her womanhood by writing about strong, active female characters. Critics claim that Marie’s works are simply rewritings of old fables, but these critics are ignoring the importance of her writings in a society where women are considered inferior to men.

Click here to see manuscripts of Marie de France’s fables