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Summary of Chretien de Troyes "Erec and Enide"

Summary of Chretien de Troyes' Erec and Enide


Peasant Proverb: “What you scorn may be worth much more than you think” (1).

On Easter Day, King Arthur held court in his castle at Cardigan. Knights, elegant ladies, and many beautiful and charming maidens (daughters of kings) were in attendance. Before the court broke up, the King told his knights that he wanted to bring back the custom of the hunt for the white stag. Sir Gawain protested. The meaning of the custom is that “whoever can kill the white stag has the right to kiss the most beautiful maiden of [the] court regardless of the consequences” (2). The king ignored his protests, and decided to start the hut the next day at dawn.

At sunrise the following day, the men set out for the hunt. Queen Guinevere followed her husband and his knights. She was accompanied by her main-in-waiting and a knight of the Round Table named Erec, the son of Lac, who had enjoyed great renown at the court. He had not yet turned twenty-five, but he was already considered to be the most noble, brave, and handsome of all of the knights. That day he only wished to accompany the Queen so he only carried a sword with him.
When their small party reached the edge of the forest, the white stag had already been flushed out by the knights and they were in hot pursuit. The Queen’s group became so behind the main group that they could no longer hear them, so they decided to stop at a roadside clearing. Not long after stopping they saw an armed knight approaching with an elegant maiden. They were preceded by a dwarf, who carried a knotted whip in his hand. The Queen ordered her maid to go and ask the knight and his lady who they were. The dwarf stopped the maid and would not let her pass. She tried to go around him and he whipped her, leaving a gash on he hand. She then returned to the Queen, who became very angry. The Queen asked Erec to go next. The dwarf would not let Erec pass him, and whipped him across the face. Erec knew that he would be risking his life he attempted to strike the dwarf, so he decided to return to the Queen. He told her that he would follow the knight and avenge his disgrace. He said he would only be gone three days. He left the Queen in the forest where the King had overtaken the stag. The king killed the stag, and they all went back to the castle.

Once supper was over, the king decided that since he had killed the stag that he would bestow the kiss upon the most beautiful maiden at court. The knights, who all thought that their lovers were the most beautiful, discussed amongst themselves that this would never happen without dispute. The king sought council from Sir Gawain and several of the finest barons present. The Queen then arrived and told him all that had happened in the forest. She then asked the King to postpone the kiss until after Erec had returned. Everyone, including the King, agreed to wait.

Erec followed the knight to a beautiful town that was well fortified. The town was in a state of jubilation. All the townspeople went to greet the knight when they saw him. They paid no attention to Erec, because no one recognized him. Erec followed the knight to his lodging. Erec rode on a little further until he saw a “vavasor” (a feudal tenant ranking directly below a baron), he knew that this man would offer him lodging, which he did. The vavasor called to his wife and daughter and they came out. The daughter was meagerly dressed, but was still very beautiful. Nature had endowed her with the greatest beauty; no one else could even come close to how beautiful she was. The maiden blushed when she noticed Erec. The vavasor told the girl to tend to Erec’s horse, which she did with great care. The vavasor then told her to take Erec by the hand and lead him inside. All three sat in front of a fire and ate dinner.

Once they had finished eating, Erec asked the Vavasor why the girl was so meagerly dressed. He explained that he had lost all of him money in feuds. There had been many barons who whished to marry her, but he had refused because he held out hope that a count or king would marry her. She is the wisest and noblest hearted of women and she deserved to have a man of her equal. Erec then asked why all of the knights had gathered there. The vavasor explained to Erec the yearly custom of that town: barons (of all ages) come to the festival, which takes place tomorrow, to see who will take the sparrowhawk from its silver perch. The man who wishes to take the sparrowhawk must have a wise and beautiful lady, who is devoid of any baseness. Any knight who believes that they are worthy of this honor will bid their lady to take the sparrowhawk in front of everyone. Erec then asked who the knight was. The vavasor told him that he was the man who will have the sparrowhawk, because no one will go up against him for it. Furthermore, if he gets it this year for the third time in a row it will be his forever. Erec announced that he would go up against the knight, and asked how he could go about procuring arms. The vavasor said that he had some fine arms to lend him. Erec said that he would use his own sword and horse, but would be very thankful for the rest. Then, Erec asked the vavasor to claim the sparrowhawk on his daughter’s behalf. He continued by revealing to the vavasor that he was the son of King Lac, and that he had been at King Arthur’s court for the last three years. Also, if he should assent Erec would make her the queen of ten cities. The vavasor had heard of Erec’s renown, and he gladly gave Erec his daughter. Everyone rejoiced. The girl, although silent, was also very happy to be marrying Erec.




Erec didn’t sleep much that night. He and the vavasor rose at dawn and attended church. They returned home and the girl armed him. Erec mounted his horse and had the maiden mount hers. People looked at them in awe as that rode to where the hawk was. They wondered who he was with this beautiful maiden.

Once they reached the hawk they waited for the other knight. The knight was shocked that someone intended to challenge him. When he arrived there was a large crowd of commoners gathered around the hawk. The knight told his maiden to get the hawk, but Erec stepped in front of her and told her that she would never have it. Erec told his maiden to take the hawk, which made the knight very angry. The knight challenged him to combat. They fought for a long time, and seemed evenly matched. Towards evening they began to weaken with the loss of blood and the longevity of the fight and agreed to take a break. As they sat there resting, Erec remembered the injustice perpetrated upon him by the knight’s dwarf, and called the knight back to battle. The knight stabbed him in the thigh. Erec’s sword came down on the knight’s shoulder down to the bone. Both lost a lot of blood, but continued to fight. Finally, Erec split the knight’s helmet with his sword and it went down through his skull bone. He was about to decapitate the knight when he begged for mercy, and surrendered his sword to Erec. Erec did not take the sword, but granted him mercy.

The knight asked Erec why he hated him so much, since they had never met before that day. Erec explained about the forest and the dwarf. Then he ordered the knight to go to Queen Guinevere that day and do her bidding. Erec asked the knight for his name, and the knight humbly replied that it was Yder, the son of Nut. Yder agreed to go the Queen and relate all that had happened and to put himself at her mercy.

Yder presented himself to the Queen as her prisoner. He told her of Erec and his maiden. The Queen said that since he surrendered then is punishment would be lenient. The King asked the Queen to give Yder his freedom as long as he stayed and joined the court, which she agreed to and Yder happily accepted.

The crowd cheered for Erec. The count, the vavasor’s brother, offered Erec lodging at his home, but Erec refused; he wished to stay with the vavasor. The count decided that he and his knights would remain at the vavasor’s house to converse with Erec. Erec announced to the group that eh would marry the maiden at King Arthur’s court. The vavasor would be given two castles in Erec’s homeland, and within three days he vowed to send the vavasor a lot of riches. The maiden’s cousin offered to give her a dress to where, but Erec refused it because he wanted to present her to the Queen in her plain white dress and have the Queen dress her. The maiden’s cousin then decided to give the maiden a dappled palfrey, which Erec accepted.

The next day, Erec and his beloved set out for the King’s court at Cardigan. The maiden brought with her the hawk that Erec had won for her the previous day. They could not stop looking at each other. They were equals in courtesy, beauty, and nobility. Erec couldn’t help himself and kissed her.

They were greeted by the King, Queen, and the other knights at court. The King helped the maiden from her horse, then took her by the hand and led her into the great hall, followed by Erec and the Queen, who were also hand-in-hand. Erec asked the Queen to clothe his beloved in one of her dresses. The Queen gave her a deep-green silk dress and cloak that had been especially made for the Queen. The outfit made her even more beautiful. When the Queen saw her she was delighted. They went before the King and Erec. She blushed in the presence of all the fine knights. The King took her by the hand and led her to her seat to the right of his. The Queen sat the King’s left. The King decided to bestow the honor of the white stag upon Erec’s maiden, which no one had a problem. The King kissed her.

Erec sent the vavasor and his wife all he had promised. He also sent ten kings and men-at-arms to escort the couple to his kingdom in Outer Wales.

Erec could wait no longer to marry his beloved, so he asked for the King’s permission. Kings, dukes, counts, and all of the land-holders were summoned to court. No one yet knew the name of the maiden; it was Enide. They married, and a great festival ensued. That night they made passionate love. The wedding feast lasted for fifteen days.

At the beginning of the third week, everyone agreed to hold a tournament between York and Tenebroc; then the court broke up. A month after Pentecost, everyone gathered in Tenebroc for the tournament. The field was covered with jousting matches. Erec rode a white horse; he defeated the Proud Knight of Heath, Tergalo. Erec went up against the King of the Red City; they were evenly matched. Both fought hard with everything they had. Erec eventually won. Erec captured so many prisoners (knights) that he was declared the most victorious and therefore won the tournament.

After the tournament, Erec asked the King to take leave and return to his homeland with his new bride. The King reluctantly assented. At six a.m. the next day, Erec, Enide, and about 140 knights and men-at-arms departed Cardigan. Four days after they left King Arthur they reached Carnant, which is where Erec’s father King Lac was staying. The whole town rejoiced and greeted them with immense jubilation. Erec and his father embraced, then Lac hugged his new daughter-in-law. He was very happy to have his son and his new bride home with him.

Erec had no desire for jousting, feats of arms, or tournaments anymore; all he wanted to do was lie next to his wife. His companions were saddened by this. Enide heard of their talking and felt great shame because she was the reason that Erec stopped proving his honor. One morning while she was lying next to him, she couldn’t hold back her tears any longer. He asked her what was wrong, and she reluctantly told him that his reputation had suffered greatly since he married her and that every blamed her. She told him that she needed him to regain his reputation. Erec agreed and told her to dress at once and be ready to ride. This alarmed Enide, because she thought that she was going to be exiled. Erec armed himself. Erec didn’t want anyone to accompany him except for his wife, which did not please his father, who begged him to take some knights or men-at-arms with him. Enide tried to retain her composure in the face of her possible banishment. The King and everyone else grieved their leaving.

Erec instructed Enide to ride ahead of him and not to speak to him unless he spoke to her first. Enide still feared her fate. Suddenly a thieving knight and his two companions emerged from the forest and decided to take Enide’s horse, saddle, bride, and breast straps. Enide turned to Erec and asked why he did nothing. Erec was man, but pardoned her this one time. Erec rode toward the knight and they jousted. Erec defeated the knight. The second knight approached, Erec knocked him to ground, wounding him. The third knight began to flee, but Erec pursued him and knocked him to the ground. Erec took all three of their horses and gave them to Enide to lead in front of her, which was very hard work. They continued on as they had before. They had not traveled a league (the distance a person or horse could walk in an hour) when they came upon five more knights, who wanted to rob them also. Enide, fearful that Erec had not seen them, spoke to him again. Erec reprimanded her for not respecting his wishes, but pardoned her once more. Erec spurred towards the first knight and knocked him down, breaking his collarbone. Erec killed the second knight. Erec knocked the third knight from his horse into the ford, and the knight’s horse fell on top of him, drowning him. The other two knights tried to flee. Erec broke his lance knocking the fourth knight to the ground. The knight stood up and Erec severed his shoulder with his sword. The fifth knight fell to the ground, surrendering to Erec; Erec didn’t attack him, but did take his lance and all five of their horses. He gave the five horses to Enide to lead with the others. He warned her not to speak again. They slept under a tree in an open field that night. Enide told Erec that she would keep guard while he slept, which she did.
Erec woke at dawn and they continued on their journey as they had the day before. At noon, in a valley, they came upon a squire, who offered them bread, cheese, and wine. Erec accepted and the squire helped them down from their horses, and disarmed Erec. They ate. Erec offered the man one of the horse, which he gladly accepted in exchange for riding into town and preparing lodging for them. He did as Erec asked and returned to fetch the couple. They were joyously welcomed. The squire was taking his horse to the stables when the count stopped him and asked him where he got the horse. The squire sung Erec’s praises to the count. The count said that Erec wasn’t as handsome as him to which the squire replied that he was indeed more handsome than the count. The count had the squire take him to Erec. The count brought three companions with him. They had a long conversation. The count was taken by Enide. He asked Erec for permission to speak to her. Erec wasn’t at all jealous, so he gave the count permission to speak to his wife. The count offered to marry her. She rejected him. He threatened to kill Erec if she did not marry him. She did not want Erec to die, so she agreed to marry him, but told him that he must pretend to abduct her in the morning that way Erec would defend her and the count could kill him without reproach. He agreed to the plan. The count left. Erec slept while Enide stayed awake on the lookout for treachery.

She awoke Erec before dawn the next morning. She told him what had happened the previous night. He then knew how loyal to him that she was. He told her to ready the horses and awaken their host. Erec gave the host the seven horses as payment for his hospitality. They left quickly. They rode along as they had before. 100 knights stormed the host’s home and found that Erec and Enide had fled. The count was very angry and ordered the head of Erec. The knights went after Erec. They soon caught up with them and surrounded them. Enide thought that Erec didn’t see them so she spoke up again. One charged Erec and Erec plunged his lance into the knight’s body. The count came next and Erec thrust his lance deep into the count’s side, the he and Enide raced towards the forest. The knight’s vowed to avenge the count, but the count realized the evilness of his actions and drew them back.

Erec came upon a drawbridge in front of a high tower. A short and courageous knight came down from the tower and wanted to engage in combat. He charged Erec. Enide kept quiet at first, but she wound up speaking to Erec again and he threatened her even though he knew that she was only warning him because she loved him. Erec and the knight charged each other. They pierced each other in the guts and fell to the ground. They continued the combat with their swords. They wounded each other a lot, but kept right on fighting. They fought from about nine o’clock in the morning until about three o’clock in the afternoon. The knight broke his sword on Erec’s shield and fled. Erec pursued the knight. The knight begged for mercy, which Erec agreed to give him if he agreed to admit his defeat. Erec asked the knight his name and rank, and the knight told him that he was King Guivret the Small. Erec told the knight who he was. Guivret offered to have a physician look at him at one of his castles, but Erec refused. He made Guivret promise that if he hears that Erec was in need of help that he would come and help. They bandaged each other and then went their separate ways.

King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, and barons came to the forest that day and set up tents. Sir Gawain tied his horse up just outside Arthur’s tent and went in to see the King. Kay, the seneschal, took Gawain’s horse, in jest, and galloped away. He came upon Erec. Erec recognized him, but Kay did not recognize Erec. Enide hid her face, so as not to be recognized. Kay grabbed Erec’s reins. Kay offered lodging and medical care. Kay’s arrogance angered Erec and he threatened Kay. Kay retreated about an acre then returned to challenge him. Erec turned his lance around and hit Kay in the chest, knocking him to the ground. Erec took Kay’s horse and gave it to Enide. Kay said it belonged to Gawain and Erec gave it back to Kay. Kay rode back to the tent and told them what had happened. Arthur told Gawain to follow the knight and persuade him to come there. Gawain related the message to Erec. Sir Gawain did not recognize Erec either. Erec refused, but thanked him. Gawain was smart, so he told one of his attendants to go back to the King and tell him to take down the tents and set them up three or four leagues ahead of them in the center of the road so that Erec would have no other choice than to stop. The King did as Gawain suggested. Gawain continued to delay Erec until Erec suddenly noticed that the tents had been set up ahead of them, which made him laugh. He told Gawain his name, and they hugged each other. Gawain went ahead to tell the King and Queen the good news; they were overjoyed. Arthur had his sister Morgan’s ointment brought and Erec’s wounds were tended to. The King told Erec that they would stay in the forest a fortnight (a week) until he was completely healed. Erec insisted on leaving in the morning much to Arthur’s dismay. All were sad when they left.

Traveling through the forest they heard a woman crying out in distress. Erec told Enide to dismount and wait for him there. The maiden was crying because two giants had captured her lover and were torturing him. He agreed to help her. The giants had whips and clubs. The knight was bleeding profusely from their torment. Erec was saddened to see a knight so shamefully treated. Erec questioned the giants, and then ordered them to hand the knight over. They refused. Erec challenged them. Erec stuck his lance in one of the giant’s eyes, he fell dead. Erec cut the other in two with his sword, he also fell dead. He took the giant’s horses and gave one to the knight. He was very happy. His name was Cadoc of Carlisle. He returned him to his lover. He sent them to Arthur to tell them what had happened, and so the knight could learn for himself who Erec is. He rode back to Enide so fast that his wounds burst open. He was coming down a small hill when he fell off of his horse as if he were dead.

Enide ran to him terrified. She fainted over the top of him. When she regained consciousness she was convinced that “good silence never hurts anyone, but speech if often harmful” (58), because now she had killed her lord. She put his head in her lap and continued to lament. She fainted again. She took his sword intending to kill herself, but God stepped in. At that moment, a count and his large troop happened to be passing by; they had heard her screams and came to see what was wrong. They took the sword from her. The count asked about her husband. He offered to marry her and bury Erec in honor. She refused and told him to go away. The count took them both despite her protests. She kept fainting on her horse and had to be held up. They went to the count’s palace in Limors. The count married her by force. He offered to give her half of his land as dowry. The count was angry with her unhappiness. He ordered her to eat, but she said that she would not eat or drink unless she saw Erec do so first. He hit her across the face; his barons reproached him. She yelled that she would never be his; he slapped her again. She told him that she did not fear him.

Erec awoke during the previous altercation, surprised. Erec struck the count on the head, killing him. Everyone fled, because they thought that Erec was the devil since had risen from the dead. The couple fled the castle. Both mounted Erec’s horse and left. They embraced and kissed each other. Erec forgave her for the offensive words that she had spoken to him concerning his honor. They rode throughout the night.

News of the dead knight (Erec), his grieving widow, and the count’s marriage proposal spread quickly. Guivret heard and immediately had 1,000 knights and men-at-arms assembled to capture Limors, bury Erec, and rescue the lady. Near midnight Erec saw the convoy and he had Enide dismount next to a hedge. Guivert saw Erec, but didn’t recognize him in the dark. They charged each other. Erec was still very weak. Erec fell to the ground. Enide came running. She grabbed Guivert’s reins and reprimanded him. Guivert asked the knight’s name. Upon hearing that it was Erec he was overjoyed and dismounted; he explained his mission to the couple. Erec told him how he killed the count and how they escaped. They camped there that night. Enide was no longer sad. She tended to his wounds. In the morning, they set out for Guivert’s castle at Pointurie. Erec rode his horse, and Enide happily rode a mule. Guivert’s two sisters tended to Erec’s wounds, and within a fortnight he was healed. Erec and Enide made love.

Erec announced that he wished to return home the next day. Guivert and some companions agreed to accompany them. They rode from morning till dusk, travelling thirty welsh leagues to a beautiful and strongly fortified town that was totally enclosed by a new wall; the town was called Brandigan. It was encircled by a moat with a strong stream. The town was fifteen leagues in diameter and was fully self-sufficient. King Evrain fortified it. Erec wished to lodge there, bur Guivert warned against it. There was a dangerous ritual that occurred there, and no one escaped it without disgrace and death. The name of the adventure is the Joy of the Court. They entered the town, despite Guivert’s protests. All looked upon Erec in awe as they passed through the town. All feared that he would be harmed, and warned him. King Evrain welcomed them all. They ate a great feast. In the middle of dinner, Erec stopped and asked about the Joy. The Kign advised him against it, because he would undoubtedly die. Erec still wanted the Joy.

At daybreak, Erec readied himself for the adventure. Enide was distraught. The King sent Erec his arms, which Erec gladly accepted since his were badly damaged. The King and the townspeople escorted Erec to a garden just outside of the town. The garden was surrounded by an invisible wall with only one entrance and exit. Flowers and fruits were always at their peak there, but one could only eat the fruit inside the garden; none of the produce could be removed from the garden. In the centre, there were a row of stakes with heads on them and one empty stake with only a horn hanging from it. It had been awaiting a head for a long time. The object of the Joy was to sound the horn. Erec went on by himself until he reached “a silver bed, covered with a gold-embroidered quilt, beneath the shade of a sycamore tree” (73). An attractive maiden sat on the bed and Erec went to go and sit next to her. A really tall knight in vermilion arms appeared and ordered Erec to stay away from his lady. Erec said that he was not afraid of him. They entered into combat. They charged each other with their lances twice, and on the second time they both broke their lances and fell to the ground uninjured. They continued fighting with their swords. They fought for a long time and were exhausted. Finally, the tall knight admitted defeat. He asked Erec’s name; Erec refused to tell him until the knight told him why he was there and what the Joy was. He agreed and Erec told him his name. The knight began: the lady was his beloved. One day, she asked him for a favor and he assented without any hesitation or knowledge of what it was that she wanted. He was the nephew of King Evrain. He was knighted here in this garden. Once he was knighted, she immediately declared that he had promised never to leave this place until a knight came and defeated him in armed combat. He should have never made that promise. She believed that no one could beat him; thus they would be there together forever. His name was Maboagrain.

He instructed Erec to go and sound the horn. Everyone was filled with joy at the sound of the horn. The lady on the bed was not at all happy, because her lover could now leave her. Enide and some of the other women went to try and comfort her, but to no avail. When the lady finally did stop crying, she looked at Enide curiously and thought that she recognized her. She asked Enide’s name, and when Enide told her she began to laugh. She was very happy. She kissed Enide and explained that they were cousins. She ten told the story of how she ended up there. Her father, the count, had been at war. Knights came to her father to enlist as mercenaries, which is how she met Maboagrain twelve years ago. She asked about Erec, and Enide told her without leaving anything out.

The court assembled there. They left the garden. The king greatly honored Erec. The Joy lasted three days, and on the fourth day Erec and Enide left and the Joy ended. Erec and Guivret went to King Arthur’s court. Erec related all of his adventures to the King. Arthur asked Erec, Enide, and Guivret to stay two or three years and they agreed.

Erec’s father died. On the Nativity (Christmas Day), King Arthur crowned both Erec and Enide.

Sources

Troyes, Chretien de. "Erec and Enide." The Complete Romances of Chretien de Troyes. Trans. David Staines. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1990. 1-86.

Published on June 1, 2012 by Sophia Brookshire © All Rights Reserved

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