Huon of Bordeaux Analysis

The Poem

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

King Charlemagne, grown old and wishing to relinquish the burden of government, summons his court and consults with his nobles to determine the succession to his throne. His plan is to abdicate in favor of his two sons, but the nobles of France are not willing to accept his favorite, Charlot, partly because of the young prince’s association with Earl Amaury, kinsman of the infamous Ganelon, who betrayed Roland to his death. The earl, Charlot’s partisan, takes the occasion to revenge himself on the noble house of Guienne. His suggestion is that Charlot be given a province to govern before he takes over the responsibilities of a state. When it comes to Charlemagne’s attention that the two sons of the dead duke have not yet come to Paris to pay their respects and render homage, Earl Amaury hopes that the king—who is violent and unreasonable in his judgments and punishments—will dispossess them and give their lands to Charlot.

Sent to conduct the heirs of the dead duke to Charlemagne’s court, messengers discover that what the king’s wise adviser, Duke Naymes, states is indeed the case: The brothers, Huon and Gerard, were too young to come to court before. The messengers, pleased with their reception by the duchess, the boys’ mother, and with the manly bearing of young Huon of Bordeaux, the older son, return with word that the young noblemen will soon follow them to swear fealty to the king. Huon and Gerard set out on their journey to Paris, stopping on the way at the monastery of Cluny, where their uncle is abbot. The noble churchman decides to accompany his nephews to Charlemagne’s court.

Earl Amaury, in the meantime, persuades Charlot to ambush the boys and kill them, a plan to which the prince agrees because the boys’ lands are extensive. In the fray, Charlot is killed when Huon strikes him with his sword and severs his helmet. In spite of the abbot’s testimony, however, Charlemagne refuses to believe that Huon acted in self-defense and without knowledge of his assailant’s identity. In a trial by combat with Earl Amaury, Huon kills that knight, who dies before he can give a true account of his villainy. Still unenlightened,...

(The entire section is 887 words.)


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Busby, Keith. “Narrative Genres.” In The Cambridge Companion to Medieval French Literature, edited by Simon Gaunt and Sarah Kay. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Busby’s essay includes information about Huon of Bordeaux.

Calin, William. “Huon de Bordeaux.” In The French Tradition and the Literature of Medieval England. Toronto, Ont.: University of Toronto Press, 1994. Explores the French influences on English literature and culture in the years from 1100 to 1420. Calin discusses several French medieval texts, including Huon of Bordeaux, to describe how they helped shape English literature.

Guerber, H. A. “Huon of Bordeaux.” In Myths and Legends of the Middle Ages: Their Origin and Influence on Literature and Art. 1896. Reprint. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005. Guerber’s book examines many of the European legends that were created in the years between the fall of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance, including Huon of Bordeaux.

Steele, Robert. Huon of Bordeaux, Done into English by Sir John Bourchier, Lord Berners: And Now Retold by Robert Steele. London: Allen, 1895. A modernized version of the sixteenth century translation by John Bourchier. The language of Steele’s version, though updated, manages to retain much of the charm of Bourchier’s original translation.