Created By: FruityOatyBars on July 12, 2011

Mal Mariee

Young woman unhappily married to a jealous older man; frequently seen in medieval literature.

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The mal mariee (French for "badly married") is a young woman unhappily married to a much older man. She is almost always innocent and beautiful, and was likely married against her will. He is probably ugly, probably cruel, and definitely obsessively jealous; he often keeps her imprisoned (most iconically, in a tower) to avoid her interacting with other men.

This never works. The more he tries to keep her for his own, the less she wants to do with him - and sooner or later some handsome young knight, poet, or fairy will find a way to romance her.

Sub-Trope of Sympathetic Adulterer very common in medieval literature, particularly in troubadour and trouvere poetry and the lais of Marie de France. A Forgotten Trope now, though it may get nods in stories with medieval or medieval-inspired settings.
Community Feedback Replies: 18
  • July 12, 2011
    Aielyn
    The french term is not going to be known to most people, and thus the name needs to be changed. The name needs to be suitable for English speakers, and can't operate on the assumption that they know enough of another language.

    So, definitely Needs A Better Title
  • July 13, 2011
    FruityOatyBars
    I called it that because that's what literary scholars call it (either English-speaking or French-speaking).
  • July 13, 2011
    ParadiscaCorbasi
    Married Badly would work, as that turn of phrase tends to be used to describe women trapped in loveless marriages to awful husbands.
  • July 13, 2011
    elwoz
    The traditional, and hilarious, song "Maids When You're Young" is an example and would probably make for a good page quote source.

    Married Badly seems far too generic to me -- that could cover all sorts of loveless marriages. Conversely, Mal Mariee deserves to be a redirect because it's the literary-scholar term, but strikes me as too obscure for a general audience. I'd go for explictness: {{Young Wife, Jealous Older Husband}} (with the comma).

  • July 13, 2011
    Aminatep
    In Dragon Scroll, Count Tanibata's wife is much younger than him (he is in his sixties, she isn't even twenty) and it is heavily implied that he isn't capable of... you know, acting more like an overprotective fatherly figure. Which eventually leads to his demise at the hands of her lover, or herself
  • July 13, 2011
    Aielyn
    How about removing the gender bias of it, and simply calling it Jealous Older Spouse? This would also require a slight expansion of the trope itself, to cover all cases of such a marriage, not just one that is "badly married". Just have two Internal Subtropes - Type 1, where the older spouse is highly protective and tends to be aggressive towards any other character who even so much as hints at interest in their spouse, and Type 2, where the older spouse is harsh and cruel towards their spouse because they constantly think they're cheating, etc. So, Type 2 with the wife being the younger one would fit the current description of the trope.

    Of course, it should be made clear that merely being a bit older isn't enough - there has to be a significant age difference.
  • July 13, 2011
    randomsurfer
  • July 14, 2011
    LunaAvril
    (just adding an example) This is what Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd wants to do to Johanna. He nearly succeeds.
  • July 14, 2011
    elwoz
    Aielyn: I like removing gender bias in general, and I like your proposed name, but there's a really strong Double Standard at work here: young man marrying much older woman is rare and I can't think of any examples that would qualify as examples of this. Can you?
  • July 14, 2011
    captainbrass2
    I can think of a famous one - The Wife of Bath in The Canterbury Tales marries a much younger man as her fifth husband. He proves to be insanely jealous to the point of nearly killing her, then repents and agrees that she can be in charge of everything, apparently because she's just that awesome. The Wife subverts this trope here, and indeed in her first three marriages, which were with older men but in which she dominated them. In fact, subverting the trope is probably the point of the character.
  • July 14, 2011
    Aielyn
    elwoz - they're very uncommon, but that's kind of why it's best to incorporate it into this trope - because there's clearly not going to be enough examples of the gender-inverted version to form its own trope. As for an example, I defer to Real Life, and the case of Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, which definitely fits the "Type 1" version.

    It's certainly worth making a note of the Double Standard, but I also think the trope should be the more general setup. Not to mention that, as I described it, it doesn't even strictly require heterosexual marriage, thereby allowing the trope to cover any plausible future homosexual examples (hey, maybe there's even an example of that form already, given some of the various gay stereotypes out there).
  • March 15, 2012
    Soupdragon
    Girl In The Tower looks a lot like this trope.
  • March 15, 2012
    animeg3282
    Looks different to me. Girl In The Tower is just a royal prisoner in a tower, nothing about jealous older husbands. Sure, the husband could lock the girl in the tower, but..
  • March 15, 2012
    Catbert
    Not really. This is about very literal examples of girls being imprisoned in a tower. This is about bad marriages.
  • March 15, 2012
    Chabal2
    There's either a folk tale or a song where the husband is so jealous he claims to leave on a trip, but comes back disguised variously as a priest, a minstrel and a soldier, and seduces his wife. When he comes back (as himself), he demands to know if she's been faithful, and she admits she slept with three men. But then she adds she only did so because she recognized him, and therefore was not committing adultery.

  • March 15, 2012
    TheHandle
    ^^^Muhammad, age 20. Khadija, age 40. Inversion: great marriage.
  • March 15, 2012
    Euodiachloris
    This trope could well have been translated into many dodgy Sci Fi and Fantasy tales (but, again, a dying trope): I'm pretty darned sure this applies to James T Kirk at some point, but I can't supply the precise example. And, why does Gor and Lensmen spring to mind as well? I'm too tired now to link all this up. I'll do it when I'm more awake.
  • March 15, 2012
    surgoshan
    This is also fairly common in Bodice Rippers and related stories. I don't think the gender inversion would be altogether common, but it might as well be gender neutral. Perhaps Unhappy Younger Spouse?
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