What is the book Erec and Enide about? Can it explain the difference between love and lust?

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teachsuccess | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Erec and Enide is a 12th Century Arthurian romance by Chretien de Troyes, originally written in Old French. It consists of more than 6000 lines of text.

The story centers on Erec (a knight of the Round Table and the son of King Lac) and his love for Enide, a vavasor's (country squire's) daughter. Although Enide is the daughter of a poor man, she is so beautiful, cultured, and dignified that she manages to win the knight's heart.

In the story, Erec engages in a battle to the death with Yder, an arrogant knight, to win both Enide's hand in marriage and an unusual, yearly contest in Enide's town. This contests pits numerous knights against each other: the winner is the one who can defend his lady's honor, beauty, and goodness against all other knights. After Erec's victory against Yder, he brings his intended bride to King Arthur's court. In a ceremony presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Erec marries his beloved Enide.

A month after their marriage, Erec shows himself the most courageous of all the knights assembled in Tenebroc when he wins a  jousting tournament there. Soon after, King Arthur gives his permission for Erec to visit his homeland and to take his lady with him. Erec and Enide continue to enjoy such wedded bliss that the young knight eventually neglects his knightly duties and activities. Erec can't help himself; he is so bewitched by his beautiful wife that he spends much of his time making love to her. He no longer attends tournaments, preferring to send his knights instead.

Soon, whispers abound that Erec has become a weakling and is no longer interested in performing the feats required of a knight. When this ugly gossip reaches Enide, the young wife is broken-hearted. She eventually confronts her husband, who is very angry at her insinuation that he has become a shadow of the man he once was. He thinks that Enide has lost her faith in him, and this wounds his masculine pride.

In retaliation for what he considers his wife's unfair insult, Erec orders Enide to get ready to go on a journey so that he can prove to her and to everyone else that he has not forgotten what it means to be a knight. Upon hearing this, Enide becomes distressed; she laments her unwise words to Erec and wishes that she hadn't brought up the topic at all. She reasons that her life would have continued on in its happy and carefree manner if her pride hadn't gotten in the way.

The rest of the story concerns all the many adventures and dangers Erec and Enide encounter on their journey. However, these adventures are only a backdrop against which the true story of devotion and noble love is told. The story's focus on true love and commitment, as opposed to courtly love or adulterous love, makes Troyes' poem a seminal work for 12th Century Arthurian romance.

When Erec is badly wounded after a battle with a lord, Enide weeps for fear that her husband will die. A nobleman who chances upon them straightaway orders Erec to be taken away for burial. He then forces Enide to marry him.

Enide does not consent but is powerless to extricate herself from the situation. Although greatly weakened by his wounds, Erec musters his last strength to save his beloved wife from the clutches of the conniving nobleman. He does this after witnessing Enide's refusal to bow to the nobleman's demands that she forget about Erec. As the Count strikes Enide for refusing his orders to eat at the wedding banquet he has prepared for them, Erec rushes upon the hapless nobleman and kills him.

Both Erec and Enide's experiences during their adventures lead them to realize that each is devoted to the other. The definition of true love, as opposed to lust, is loyal commitment to each other's well-being, and both lovers display this to full measure through their actions in the story.

For a great summary of this story, please refer to the eNotes link below.

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