by Chrétien de Troyes

Start Free Trial


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Chrétien de Troyes was a French poet who lived and wrote in the twelfth century. One of his best known works is the romance Yvain, ou le Chevalier au lion, which in English translates to Yvain, or the Knight of the Lion.

King Arthur

Yvain is considered part of the "Matter of Britain," the texts that revolve around the legend of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table. So, as is to be expected, good King Arthur himself is one of the characters, though he plays a minor role in the tale and functions mostly as an emblem of courtly life. Near the beginning of the story, he grants Yvain permission to embark on a quest and comes to Yvain's aid at the magic spring with several other knights. He is married to Queen Guinevere and, when the tale begins, is keeping court in Wales during the season of Pentecost.


Yvain, the title character, is one of the knights the Round Table at King Arthur's court. When he hears his cousin Calogrenant tell the story of how he was bested by a mysterious knight at a magic spring, Yvain rides to the spring to avenge Calogrenant, challenges the knight himself, and wins. He marries the knight's widow, Lady Laudine de Landuc, but after leaving her castle to participate in the tournaments with his fellow knights, Yvain breaks his promise to Laudine to return to her within the year, and she sends a maiden to denounce him. Horrified, Yvain goes mad and takes to the forest, where he is eventually saved by a noble lady. Yvain agrees to be her champion and thus embarks upon a series of fantastical quests and heroic deeds that help form him into a knight of true chivalry, known as "the Knight of the Lion" for the faithful beast that begins to travel at his side. At the end of the story, Yvain returns to the magic spring, where, having demonstrated his fidelity and atoned for his broken promise, he finally achieves redemption through his reunion with Laudine.


Sir Calogrenant is Yvain's cousin, also a knight of the Round Table, and tells the story of how he was defeated by a mysterious knight at a magic spring and was ashamed of himself for it ever after.


Sir Gawain (known for his own adventures in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight) is another of the knights of the Round Table and a nephew of King Arthur. He asks his friend Yvain to leave Laudine's castle and come to the tournaments with him, and he and Yvain unwittingly do battle with one another near the end of the story.


Lunete, a cunning servant who lives at Lady Laudine's castle, tends to Yvain's wounds after his fight at the spring and convinces Laudine to marry Yvain and forgive him for killing Laudine's first husband (the mysterious knight). When Yvain breaks his promise to Laudine, Laudine prepares to have Lunete burnt to death. Yvain rescues Lunete, and she promises to bring about a reconciliation between him and Laudine. Lunete fulfills her promise at the end of the story, when she uses her way with words to convince Laudine to take Yvain back.

Lady Laudine de Landuc

The beautiful widow of the knight, Esclados, who originally guarded the magic spring, Lady Laudine marries Yvain after he falls in love with her at first sight and apologizes for having killed her husband in combat. She gives Yvain a magic ring and grants him permission to leave for the tournaments, but only if he...

(This entire section contains 870 words.)

See This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this study guide. You'll also get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

promises to return to her castle within a year. Enraged when Yvain breaks his promise, she sends a maiden to denounce him and take back the ring, and under the influence of a wicked knight, she tries to have Lunete executed for her role in the marriage. Ultimately, Laudine reconciles with Yvain upon Lunete's advice.

Minor Characters

Other characters include Sir Kay, a disagreeable knight of the Round Table who makes fun of Calogrenant and Yvain before being beaten by Yvain in a fight; a forest-dwelling hermit who takes care of Yvain after the knight goes mad; Lady Noroison, who finds Yvain in the forest, heals him, and unsuccessfully proposes marriage to him; Count Alier, who is plundering Lady Noroison's lands but vows to live in peace after Yvain defeats him; a false knight and his brothers who convince Laudine to imprison Lunete and are killed by Yvain; Harpin of the Mountain, a giant Yvain and his lion slay to defend Sir Gawain's brother-in-law, a baron; the younger daughter of the Lord of Noire Espine and her friend, who seek out Yvain to be their champion against the daughter's selfish older sister; and a lord who keeps three hundred maidens imprisoned in his castle and forces Yvain to fight the devilish sons of evil in order to free them. There is also the lion Yvain saves from a fire-breathing serpent and who becomes Yvain's faithful companion; he may or may not be considered a character in the strictest sense but is certainly an important figure in the tale. It is from him that Yvain draws his alias, "the Knight of the Lion."