43 pages 1 hour read

Chrétien De Troyes

Erec and Enide

Fiction | Novel/Book in Verse | Adult | Published in 1170

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Summary and Study Guide


Erec and Enide is a book-length poem written by French poet Chrétien de Troyes around the year 1170. The poem is one of Chrétien’s series of so-called Arthurian romances—a genre of poem in the Middle Ages that told the stories of the individuals associated with King Arthur’s court. His poems are among the earliest to refer to King Arthur and his knights, and Erec and Enide focuses on the adventures of the knight Erec. This guide follows Ruth Harwood Cline’s translation of Erec and Enide published by University of Georgia Press in 2000.

Plot Summary

Erec and Enide opens with King Arthur announcing a ceremonial hunt of a white stag on Easter. During the hunt, the knight Erec accompanies Queen Guinevere and her maiden, and the party encounters a mysterious knight in the woods. Erec leaves the queen to pursue the knight, following him to a far-off castle. There, Erec is hosted by a poor nobleman who has a beautiful daughter, known as Enide. The nobleman tells Erec that the unknown knight is visiting the town to participate in a challenge for a prized sparrow hawk. Erec vows to challenge the unknown knight in the name of the nobleman’s beautiful daughter. The next day, Erec defeats the unknown knight in a duel and announces his intention to bring Enide back with him to King Arthur’s court and marry her.

Enide is outfitted by Queen Guinevere for the wedding, and King Arthur organizes a massive wedding celebration for them, inviting lords from all over the lands. Afterward, a tournament is held among the lords and knights in attendance, and Erec easily becomes the tournament champion. Erec and Enide travel to his father’s, King Lac’s, castle, where Erec introduces Enide to his father. Erec and Enide fall into a life of marital bliss, and Erec spends much of his time in bed with Enide rather than pursuing knightly adventures. People begin to gossip about how Enide has caused Erec to fail in his knightly duties, and Enide begins to feel guilt over the gossip. One night, Erec overhears Enide lamenting to herself about the gossip. In response, Erec tells Enide to prepare a horse for riding, and the two set out from the castle with no explanation from Erec.

As Erec and Enide travel by horse, Erec tells Enide not to speak to him unless first spoken to. However, Enide sees a group of three robbers planning to attack Erec, and she cries out to warn him. Erec chastises Enide and then defeats the three robbers. As Erec and Enide continue their travels, they encounter more foes, with Enide continuing to speak out of line to Erec. Though Erec grows increasingly frustrated with Enide, he also realizes that she only disobeys him out of her love for him.

Erec and Enide stop at the castle of Count Galoain, who falls madly in love with Enide upon first sight. When Enide rebuffs him, he plots to kill Erec and take Enide as his wife. Enide at first pretends to agree to elope with the count, before warning Erec and fleeing with him. As they continue on their journey, Erec also fights two giants holding a knight captive, the nobleman Guivret the Small, and Count Oringle of Limors, who attempts to force Enide to wed him after mistakenly believing Erec to be dead.

After their many travails, Erec realizes that Enide truly loves him and promises to devote himself to her once again and treat her well like he did before. As Erec and Enide return to King Arthur, they come across a castle that is host to a challenge known as the Joy of the Court. Though every knight who has attempted the challenge has died, Erec insists on attempting the challenge. The challenge involves Erec going into a magical orchard, where he fights and defeats a powerful knight. Erec emerges victorious from the orchard, leading to a great celebration in the castle.

Erec and Enide finally return to King Arthur’s court, where Erec tells King Arthur of the various adventures he had during his journeys. After some time, Erec hears news that his father, King Lac, has died. King Arthur organizes a lavish coronation for Erec, which ends with a feast.