Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 867
Count Bougars de Valence and Count Garin de Beaucaire are at war. Count Garin has one son, Aucassin, who is so smitten by love that he will neither accept the duties of knighthood nor participate in his father’s quarrel, unless his father consents to his love for Nicolette. She is...
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Count Bougars de Valence and Count Garin de Beaucaire are at war. Count Garin has one son, Aucassin, who is so smitten by love that he will neither accept the duties of knighthood nor participate in his father’s quarrel, unless his father consents to his love for Nicolette. She is a slave, bought by a captain of the town from the Saracens and reared as his own daughter. Count Garin agrees to the marriage of Aucassin to any daughter of a king or count but not to Nicolette. He goes to see the captain and tells him to send Nicolette away. The captain says that he will keep Nicolette out of sight, and she is imprisoned in the high chamber of a palace with an old woman to keep her company. Rumors speed through the countryside: Nicolette is lost; Nicolette fled the country; Nicolette was slain by order of Count Garin.
Meanwhile, the war between the two counts grows more fierce, but Aucassin still refuses to fight. Father and son then make a covenant: Aucassin will go into the battle, and if God wills that he should survive, the count must agree to allow him two or three words and one kiss from Nicolette. Aucassin rides into the fray, but thoughts of Nicolette so distract him that he is captured. Then Aucassin reflects that if he is slain, he will have no chance at all to see Nicolette. Therefore, he puts his hand on his sword and begins fighting with all of his strength. He kills ten knights, wounds seven, and takes Count Bougars prisoner. When Count Garin refuses to keep the covenant, Aucassin releases Count Bougars. Aucassin is cast into a dungeon.
Nicolette, knowing her companion to be asleep, escapes from her prison by a rope made of bed linen and goes to the castle where Aucassin lies. While they exchange lovers’ vows, the guards came searching for Nicolette, as her escape has been discovered. A friendly sentinel, however, warns Nicolette of their coming. She leaps into the moat and, bruised and bleeding, climbs the outer wall.
Nicolette falls asleep in a thicket near the castle. The next day, she sees some shepherds eating their lunch at a fountain nearby. She asks them to take a message to Aucassin, saying there is a beast in the forest and that he should capture this beast and not part with one of its limbs for any price. Nicolette builds a lodge within the forest and waits to prove her lover’s faith.
Aucassin is taken from his prison and allowed to attend a great feast, but he finds no joy in it. A friendly knight offers his horse to Aucassin and suggests that he ride into the forest. Aucassin is only too happy for a chance to get away. He meets the shepherds by the fountain and hears what Nicolette told them. Aucassin prays to God that he will find his quarry.
He rides in haste through the thorny forest. Toward evening, he begins to weep because his search was fruitless. He meets a huge, ugly fellow, leaning on a terrible cudgel. Aucassin tells him that he mourns for a white hound he lost. The burly fellow scornfully replies that he lost his best ox and searched fruitlessly for three days without meat or drink. Aucassin gives the man twenty sols to pay for the beast. They part and go their separate ways.
Aucassin finds the lodge built by Nicolette and rests there that night. Nicolette hears Aucassin singing and comes to him. The next day, they mount Aucassin’s horse and journey until they come to the seas. Aucassin and Nicolette board a ship, and a terrible storm carries them to Torelore. First, Aucassin fights with the king of that strange land and then frees the king from his enemies. He and Nicolette live happily in Torelore until Saracens besiege the castle and capture all within it. Aucassin is put in one ship and Nicolette in another. A storm scatters the ships, and that in which Aucassin is a prisoner drifts ashore at Beaucaire. He is now the Count of Beaucaire, since his parents died.
Nicolette is in the ship bearing the king of Carthage, who is her true father. They do not recognize each other because Nicolette was a small child when she was stolen. When she sees the walls of Carthage, however, memory comes back to her, and she reveals her identity in a song. The king gives her great honor and desires to marry her to a king of the Saracens, but Nicolette remains steadfast in her love for Aucassin. She disguises herself as a minstrel and takes ship for Provence, where she travels from castle to castle until she comes to Beaucaire.
In the great hall, Nicolette sings of her adventures. When Aucassin hears her song, he takes her aside and inquires concerning Nicolette. He asks her to return to the land where Nicolette lives and to bring her to him. Nicolette returns to the captain’s house, and there she clothes herself in rich robes and sends for Aucassin. At last, they are wed and live long years with great joy.