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Introduction to Erec and Enide

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« on: August 19, 2007, 09:27:55 pm »

Erec and Enide (French: Érec et Énide) is Chrétien de Troyes' first romance, completed around 1170. Consisting of 7000 lines written in Old French, the poem is the earliest known Arthurian romance in any language besides the Welsh Culhwch and Olwen, which likely predates its surviving manuscripts. The work recounts the tale of Erec, one of King Arthur's knights, and the conflict between love and knighthood he experiences in his marriage to Enide.

The poem begins with an unarmored Erec keeping Guinevere company while other knights participate in a stag hunt. A strange knight and his dwarf approach the queen and treat her servant roughly. The Queen orders Erec to follow the knight, Yder, to avenge the insult done to her servant. Erec ends up travelling to a far off town where he meets and falls in love with Enide. Erec defeats Yder and marries his love.

Some time later, however, rumors spread that Erec has gone soft and neglected his knightly duties. He overhears Enide crying over these rumors, and apparently doubts her love and devotion. He orders her to prepare for a journey, and they set off to parts unknown. He commands her to be silent through the whole ordeal, but she disobeys her obstinate husband several times to warn him of danger. The couple face and overcome a number of adventures, and Enide's undying love allows Erec to prove himself capable of handling both his marital and public duties.

Erec and Enide displays the problems of love and chivalry that Chrétien takes up in all his later work. Popular in its own day, the poem was translated into several other languages, notably German in Hartmann von Aue's Erec and Welsh in Geraint and Enid, one of the Three Welsh Romances included in the Mabinogion.

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